A big hangup that many of us have regarding our faith is obedience. Being Catholic means being obedient to the church (because, the church is the Body of Christ). But we, particularly, we Americans, naturally resist obedience. Speaking for myself, the more an authority tries to tell me what to do, the harder I resist. We are a maverick people.
That can make it seem difficult for you to be a full Catholic. Surrendering your judgement to someone else’s is not a natural act. But, like self-discipline, obedience is essential. Because, God, as our Father, truly knows best. While you can debate your earthly father’s common sense, it is just plain absurd to think that you know better than God.
Ahh, the critics are waiting to pounce. I can hear them howling at the door. Obedience to God makes sense, they say, but why should we be obedient to Father Dave? How’s this for an answer: because God said so. In Matthew 16:18-19 Jesus literally gave Peter the keys to the church, giving him supreme authority over Christianity. To show that this wasn’t an honorary position, Jesus gave Peter the power to “bind,” and “loose.” In other words, Peter was given the power to make the rules. The rules, to be written by Peter, not Jesus, were to be eternal. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven. Peter was the boss of even the angels. From Peter, the keys to the Christian church were handed down from one disciple to another. Each time, the leaders of the church carefully selected the next successor to Peter, and his deputies, bishops and priests.
Being human, of course, they picked a couple of losers along the way. Several Popes in the early middle ages were womanizers, political hacks and scoundrels. Why did God allow that? I don’t know. Perhaps it was a necessary shot of humility?
Regardless of the reason, yes there have been a few bad Popes. But something interesting happened during those times. Actually, nothing interesting happened. Those Popes of disrepute could have used their authority to rewrite the rules, but they didn’t. The church founded by Jesus on the shoulders of a fisherman was unchanged.
Now, while, “Because God said so,” is a good enough reason for me to obey, there’s another, more human reason why I choose obedience. It’s simpler. Life is challenging and complex enough for me. I don’t need to be the author of my own brand of religion. I am content that God knows the way, and that my role is to follow.
That doesn’t mean I don’t scratch my head at times. Do I wonder why a quarter size crust of bread is Christ’s actual body, or why priests can’t marry, or why we need to be dunked in a granite bucket to get to heaven? Sure. The church is filled with mysteries. Did some of the Saints actually grow nails in their feet and bleeding holes in their wrists? Are some bodies of long-dead saints still intact and undecomposed? Like many, I’m fascinated and can’t resist asking questions about those things. That just makes the Church more interesting to me. But I’m no longer so smart that I not only question but decide for myself that God’s Church is right or wrong on any given question. I may still question, wonder and investigate. In the meantime, though, I’ll assume that two-thousand years of experience, knowledge, study and advice from God Himself probably led to a more reasoned result than my fifteen minutes of talking it over at a bar or a one-semester theology course.