The Life of Christ which is expressed through the Church and the Gospel is meant to bring us the greatest joy and freedom, that which we need to get ourselves to heaven by a holy way of life, and as Disciples of Christ to bring as many people with us as we can. This sounds right, and I’m sure that this is something that most of us can agree upon. From there, we digress. This is less a criticism of any one person than stating a reality that we don’t have to go too far to see. We agree on some things and disagree on others. Even as Catholics, we find ourselves accepting some teachings of the Church and then rejecting some that we feel are “old-thinking” or simply “not right”. We can be “cafeteria Christians” picking and choosing what is acceptable, palatable, agreeable and what is not. This is not a judgment, but as priest who, I must confess, has done this myself too at times and someone who works with Catholic Christian each and every day it is again a reality. There is a lesson we are offered by our Lord Jesus in today’s Gospel and a point to ponder upon and reflect upon in our own lives. Are we these “cafeteria Christians”, who essentially are the people Jesus speaks about in today’s Gospel? Even though the people we hear our Lord speak of, are highly critical of John the Baptist and then our Lord Himself – we must consider how and why we take the positions of opposition to what we are taught or know our faith is about.
As I often do, I offer a little insight into how I combat this difficulty for myself. It is the way I think as an ordinary Catholic Christian man who happens to be a priest. As a convert, there were MANY things which I found objectionable at first. Even though I love the Catholic Church and gave myself wholeheartedly when I was baptized in 2003 – there were many things that I had great reservations about and refused to accept. At that time, I believed that I didn’t really need to accept everything to accept the Catholic Church. As my understanding of the Church and her Divine Purpose has developed, I came to realize that I did. As a catechumen and then a neophyte, one of the gifts which most men and women who choose the Church and Holy Baptism receive is an inquiring mind and a desire for truth and knowledge. There were many things which I needed to simply tell myself that I will follow the Church because it is of God and pray for the understanding, asking the questions and seeking the answers until I have satisfaction. I am still on a quest for some satisfaction, but because an important Office of the Holy Priesthood is to teach, I passionately took on some of the tougher questions and challenges while I was in the seminary. I would never profess to be an expert on much of anything, and I know that my means of communicating the truth is less than others who have the gift of brilliant minds and to teach – I point others to them; to the theologians of the Church, many of our seminary professors and amazing teachers of the faith.
Friends, I offer you this: if things aren’t clear, ask the Lord in prayer to point you to the places to make it clear and I can assure you He will. He has never let me down! Don’t reject any of the Gospel or the Church’s teaching or assume you’ve been taught correctly to reject it. This doesn’t serve anyone, let alone ourselves as Christians.