I have reflected a lot on how we know what or who to obey. We don't just obey any random person off of the street, so how do we know who to trust? In so many aspects the teachings of the Catholic Church are radically different from the world view. How can we be so certain that the Catholic Church has it right? This has caused me to step back a bit and break down obedience. I don't know if what I will share here makes sense, but it's my line of thinking, so bear with me. :)
In order to obey someone, we have to trust them. How do we decide who to trust? I mean, I wouldn't just go to a random man on a street corner and say, "Hi, I don't know you, but here is $26,000 in cash, it's the down payment to my house, can you hold it for me for the next three weeks until closing? Thanks." Heck no, I wouldn't do that. Why? Because how would I know if he could be trusted? We learn to trust people over time. We learn to trust people by trusting them with small things first. Then, when we learn that they can be trusted with small things, we begin to trust them with more. Above all, we have to know that the person we are obeying loves us and wills what is best for us.
How do we learn whose counsel to follow? In a similar fashion. We listen to their suggestions, follow them, and if it goes well with us, we will most likely trust their counsel again in the future. We look for someone who is knowledgeable, honest, trustworthy and above all a person who loves us and wills what is best for us.
Who could possibly fill these requirements for someone to trust and someone whose counsel to follow if not the God who created us? (Psalm 139). And how can we know that He loves us and wants what's best for us? By getting to know Him. By reading the love letters that He has left us in the Scriptures (a.k.a the Bible). How do we know that we can trust Him? We start out by trusting Him, and when we learn that He is trustworthy, we continue to trust Him with more. How do we know that we can follow His counsel? We begin to follow it, and when we realize that it goes well for us, we will continue to follow His counsel.
I find it incredible that our conversation for Women of Grace regarding "Obedience" timed perfectly with the Feast of the Transfiguration, when Christ revealed to the disciples that He truly was the Son of God (Mark 9:2-10) -- when the voice of God spoke to Peter, James and John and said, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to him" (v. 7) What more could we need to know that our God is trustworthy and worthy of following and obeying with our entire being. The 2nd reading from today's mass was one of the most poignant and telling passages of scriptures I've read lately.
We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that unique declaration came to him from the majestic glory, "This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased." We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven while we were with him on the holy mountain. Moreover, we possess the prophetic message that is altogether reliable. You will do well to be attentive to it, as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.
~ 2 Peter 1:16-19
As I continue to try and make Church teaching accessible to the women in our study group, and to help them see that the Catholic Church possess the teachings of Jesus Christ and that He wants only what is best for us, and as such He and thus the Catholic Church can be trusted and obeyed without fear, I can totally relate to the passion with which St. Peter writes this letter to the people. I can almost literally hear him speaking this message to us today with incredible passion, saying, "Look! I was there! I promise you, that the teachings and traditions we have handed on and what we are teaching you are not myths! We (he, James and John) were eyewitnesses of Jesus' majesty! We saw Him transformed before our very eyes. He revealed Himself to us as the Son of the Father, upon whom He always trusts and depends. We ourselves heard the voice of God the Father saying, 'This is my Son, my beloved, with whom I am well pleased.' Please trust the teachings that we are passing on to you, because they are all together reliable. It will go well with you to be attentive to these teachings as if they were a lamp shining into the dark recesses of your heart--into places of spiritual darkness where you do not yet obey Jesus or where you still doubt His Church. Dwell on these teachings, learn, listen and continue to desire to be obedient until that day comes when light begins to peak into the areas of darkness in your heart and you begin to see clearly and the Morning Star, Jesus, rises to take his rightful place of lordship in your heart."
I just LOVE this passage. It is so rich. And as we each continue along our own personal spiritual journey, may we listen to St. Paul's exhortation to continue attend to these teachings until the Morning Star himself rises in our heart!
He loves us, and He can be trusted. The Catholic Church was founded by Christ Himself and entrusted to the safe-keeping of his Apostles who experienced His teachings first hand. Through apostolic succession (2 Timothy 2:2) and the 265 popes (from St. Peter's installation as the first pope (Matthew 16:18-19) through Pope Benedict XVI's current papacy) these teachings have been preserved and tested over time. Many have gone before us and have attested with their very lives that Jesus' teachings are worthy to be followed and that He can be trusted.
Dare to dig deep and to learn more. No matter where you are on the spectrum of belief, whether you are just beginning to believe or whether you've been believing for as long as you can remember, you may be surprised at what you find....
...for we do not follow cleverly devised myths.