I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.” It’s my Asperger. It’s my Americanism. It’s my modernism. But I balk at being required to do something.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the idea of “obligation” and the faith, and I thought I’d look up what the word actually means. While today it means more a “requirement” or “responsibility,” it originally meant “pledge.” Before that, it came from a Latin word for “binding.” In one sense, an “obligation” binds the person to do it, but also binds one party to another.
St. Augustine’s oft-misquoted “dilige et quod vis fac” comes into play here. “Dilige” is the root word for “delight” or “delicious,” but it’s also the root for “diligence.” So while St. Augustine is misquoted as saying “Love and do as you will,” with “love” here meaning “follow your delights” (something St. Augustine quite obviously would not endorse), he really means “Love your duty from that that do as you will.”
This is really a functional definition of “obligation.” It is always an act of love. Socrates says he accepts the death penalty because he loves Athens too much to be exiled. The patriot loves his country so much he offers his life in military service, which involves obligations. The student has an obligation to study, but if she loves learning, the obligation is easier.
I have obligations to my body. I have had to drastically adjust my diet and lifestyle since epilepsy was added to my list of ailments last month. Out of love for my family, I fulfill the obligations of my new condition, whether I really desire them or not.
I have obligations to my children. Some are difficult. Some are enjoyable, but I do all of them because I love my children.
I have obligations to my wife. I keep those obligations because I love her. Some of those obligations are tedious, like chores, while others are more pleasurable. But they’re still obligations. One of the things Natural Family Planning teaches about marriage is how to make love when one doesn’t feel like it: it’s an obligation.
Thus, when we speak of obligations in the Church, or even not obligations but “requirements” of devotions, the purpose is not to be legalistic as such: it’s to provide a tried and true guideline for building a relationship with Christ. Just as hugging and kissing daily strengthen a marriage, so prayer and certain practices strengthen our relationship with God. Sure, I could skip checking for discount flowers at the grocery store, but when I bring my wife flowers, she feels loved and I grow in love for her from that appreciation. Sure, I can skip my Rosary, but when I give Jesus and His Mother that spiritual bouquet, they feel loved, and I grow in love for them.
Studies show that married couples should make love at least once a week, on average, to feel happy and fulfilled in their marriages. That, again, can be an “obligation” if one or both isn’t “in the mood,” or especially if they have to schedule a time, and if legitimate impediments exist, they are usually stressful situations that will either strengthen or weaken the marriage depending on how they’re handled: do the couple turn to each other or away from each other?.
Similarly, frequency of Confession and Communion builds our bonds to Jesus Christ. It’s an “obligation” because it binds us to Him. We should receive the Sacraments because we love Jesus. Sometimes, the experience can be full of spiritual consolation. Sometimes, it can be dry. Sometimes, we receive indicators that we need to improve our relationship with Christ. And as with marriage, when crises, however frequent or infrequent, impede us from coming to Him Sacramentally, do we turn to Him for help or away from Him?
Category Archives: Sacraments
I don’t know about you, but I don’t like “obligation.” It’s my Asperger. It’s my Americanism. It’s my modernism. But I balk at being required to do something.
This is Mary, John’s wife posting. I found this homily exactly the challenge I need to grow in holiness by rooting out the base that is in me, through God’s Grace.
“The mentality just described by St. Francis might be summed up in one sentence: “I’m too weak to practice virtue—at least, not heroically like the saints did—so I’m definitely dispensed from doing so.” Some of us here may be thinking similar thoughts. Despite this presumption, we might still manage to save our own soul, but many others will be lost—those onetime wayward souls whom any given saint manages to drag along with himself to heaven. Even one mortal sin can cost us much peace of mind, yet umpteen souls are lost and our conscience won’t be any worse for the wear, because here below this sin of which we speak will remain buried under a heap of excuses. We wanted to avoid the cross, but in the end we only managed to exchange one cross for another—perhaps even a heavier one. In the process, we forfeited ever so much joy to which the saints are privy both in time and eternity. What shall we say about all this? How about a prayer? Lord, spare us so rude an awakening in purgatory! Save us from our secret sin—and from our top secret sin: ingratitude. Make us thankful in thought, word and deed. Amen.”
Grace is received according to the mode of the receiver.
So are vegetables.
Some people naturally love vegetables. Most people don’t.
Most people love a few particular vegetables. For me, my favorites are broccoli and spinach, which I’d eat an entire package of on my own if I could but I take Coumadin so I’m only allowed to eat small amounts of them. Ironically, a few months ago I ate a whole bag of broccoli by myself and sent myself to the ER with a clot.
If we don’t have any desire to eat vegetables, we need to have our desires adjusted before we can eat them.
If we grow up eating vegetables, it is easier to love them as an adult. Often, if we grow up eating both, or having our vegetables coated in twinkies, as someone recently suggested, then we are really being taught that vegetables are not desirable.
If we have a desire to eat vegetables but a greater desire to eat junk food, we might eat *some* vegetables but not all the vegetables that are being served to us because we spoiled our dinner by filling up on junk food.
If we fill up completely on junk food, we have no room for vegetables.
So it is with grace.
Our Father in Heaven is offering us a smorgasbord of spiritual vegetables. Our Lady of Victory told St. Catherine Laboure that the precious stones falling from her hands on the Miraculous Medal–the stones which Mel Gibson symbolically has her casting to the earth in The Passion of the Christ, are the graces that go to waste because people aren’t willing to receive them.
Original sin and concupiscence are such that most of us are disinclined to accept His Grace.
Some people are born more naturally receptive to grace.
Some people are born with an inclination to particular graces from God, rather than having a well-balanced spiritual diet, gorge themselves on one kind of grace to the detriment of their overall spiritual life (such as a preference for Scripture or a particular devotion, a scrupulous devotion to COnfession, fasting excessively, doing charitable works without prayer, etc.).
Some people are raised in holy homes and taught to shun the world.
Some people are raised by holy parents who try to teach them the right way, but the enemy sows his seeds of spiritual junk food anyway, and the parents themselves don’t realize the subtle ways they’re teaching that God is second in their lives or that faith is not desirable in itself.
Most people don’t even try to accept God’s grace, and if they try, they get their souls so full of sin that they can’t, and they need to get that out of their systems, one way or the other, before they can take in the graces God is trying to offer them.
I have a serious question to ask to any priests who may happen to read this, but first, I’d like to begin with an example.
Arguably, the worst pope in history was Alexander VI, aka Rodrigo Borgia: we say “Borgia Popes” when there was really only one, but his reputation defined an era; his daughter(!) Lucretia is ranked in history and myth with the likes of Jezebel and Medea; his son(!) is believed to be the model for the behaviors Machiavelli describes in _The Prince_.
During an era when women were forbidden, both in canonical and civil law, from preaching, a woman who claimed to be a locutionary and prophetess was brought before the throne of Alexander VI on charges of witchcraft. She began to recite and denounce the sins of Rodrigo Borgia. The Pope, not known for any particular respect for human life, could have publically or privately ordered her tortured or killed in any way he wanted, but he acknowledge the truth of her words and ordered that she be released.
I have known few local pastors willing to demonstrate such humility when laity have even so much as questioned their decisions on morally neutral matters, much less challenged them for setting a bad example or being outright cruel. 13 years after the so-called “scandals,” which were really for some reason a sudden media outburst about problems long known and rumored, have we learned nothing?
While the Church has addressed child sexual abuse nominally by targeting parents and making up draconian policies based more on legal, insurance and PR concerns than morality–which was the problem to begin with–and while some reports suggest the cases of sexual abuse have gone down, verbal and emotional abuse by pastors goes on unabated.
When a few lay organizations perhaps go overboard in their zeal for prophetic witness, they are dismissed as “causing division,” while the average Catholic who cares about the Church is still ignored or dismissed or even banned.
The Holy Father worries about pastors “obsessing” in homilies about a “few disjointed moral issues,” yet most of us have rarely, if ever, heard those moral issues addressed from the pulpit, except by priests who preach of “tolerance” and “more important issues,” and the ones who do preach about them tend to “disappear,” get passed up for pastoral appointments, or suddenly adopt a softer tone.
You see, if a rich liberal Catholic writes an angry letter to the bishop, that letter gets heard, but if a traditionalist, whether rich or not (but usually we have less disposable income because we actually have kids) writes to the bishop, in that case the letter-writer gets ignored or worse.
Poll after poll shows that most Catholics don’t believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Source and Summit of Our Faith, and it’s not preached about, even when we have the Bread of Life discourse every three years. Poll after poll shows that only a small percentage, if only a fraction of a percent, of Catholics are using NFP.
We’re told, if we point to the lack of children in the pews as a cause for pastoral concern, that we’re “being judgemental” and that maybe all those people are suffering infertility. If that’s the case, then priests should be preaching about adoption or about how the birth control hormones polluting our water supply are causing rising infertility rates.
Yet, when the saints, and the Popes (including Pope Francis) suggest avoiding preaching against sin, they usually do it with the alternative of preaching prayer. St. Louis de Montfort and St. Teresa of Avila both call on priests to teach prayer and devotion to Our Lady, that sinners want to know how to repent, and God will open the truth to them in prayer.
We’re told about the Pope’s admonitions against using air conditioning, but not his admonitions against priests living in luxury and his calls for pastors to “smell like the sheep” and go out among the poor.
And the question that I always come back to is: Father(s), do you care more about saving souls or about saving money?
Do you care that the majority of your flock are likely to go to Hell? Why don’t you warn them? Do you understand that, when you don’t encourage families to be in the church, when you tear down playgrounds or forbid people from using them, you’re telling people “children aren’t welcome”? Do you care about the souls of people you push away? St. Alphonsus warns that pastors will be held accountable for every soul lost to Hell because of their sins of deed or omission. Even St. John Bosco had a vision, late in life, where St. Dominic Savio admonished him for permitting too many boys to be lost to Hell because he lacked enough faith!
If you find yourself wishing that the most fervent of your followers would die off or get over the alleged “fad” of Tradition, think about it.
If you find yourself suggesting you’d leave the priesthood rather than following Pope Benedict’s call to offer the Extraordinary Form to any group who requests it, or St. John Paul’s call to say part of every Mass in Latin, think about it.
If you find yourself saying things like a hole in one is the greatest moment in your life, think about it.
If you’re more concerned about money issues than whether children or families with children feel welcome in your parish, think about it.
If you find yourself too proud to read something like this and take fraternal correction in humility the way even Rodrigo Borgia was able to do, think about it.
And when you’ve thought about it, I invite you to make or renew a total consecration to Our Lady. Start today. Even if it’s not 33 days from a Marian feast, there’s no time like the present.
Dear missionaries of Lighthouse Baptist:
First, let me say, I commend your faith. I commend your courage and bravery in coming to strangers’ homes and trying to win them over to Jesus.
Further, compared to others like yourselves, I commend you for accepting that I am already a Christian. Too often, when I’ve been approached by evangelicals, if I say, “I’m already a Christian” or “I already have a church,” there is a certain kind of anger that bubbles up. A “transitional” deacon friend who was my Catholic hospital chaplain when I was in cardiac rehab 2 years ago described the same when he visited some non-Catholic patients on the floor.
I hope that, if I had my voice and had spoken the words, “I’m a Catholic,” you would have kept that smile and “we’re brothers in the Lord” attitude.
2 and a half years ago, before I lost my left vocal cord, I would have welcomed a conversation. Hopefully, it would have proceeded in mutually respectful dialogue.
However, I’d like to point out a few things:
1. Jumping in with “You have to believe in Jesus because there’s a judgment coming” isn’t the best way to approach people.
2. You handed me a pamphlet and said it had “All the verses you need to know.” I had intended to look at your pamphlet but misplaced it, so I dug around your website, and found a list. Assuming it’s the same list, I have a few questions, which I might have asked had the conversation proceeded in such manner.
a) If I had been a nonbeliever, why would I care what the Bible says at all?
b) As I am a believer, where in the Bible does the Bible speak of “verses”? Why must I only “need to know” a few out of context verses? Are you aware that “verse numbers” were added to the Bible by Medieval Catholic theologians to help make it easier to reference?
I know that ” All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). I know that St. Paul says, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.” (2 Thess 2:15), and that Peter says: “19 We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 20 Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:19-20).
So how can it be “just me and Jesus,” when Jesus said, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.” (Mark 14:24). Yes, He knew Me from before time, and yes, if I had been the only sinner ever, Christ would have still died for me, but He died for many, including me, not just me.
c) If all I have to is confess faith in Jesus, why bother coming to your church?
And what about where Jesus Himself says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).
3. I would hope that, having shared your verses with me, you would be interested in hearing some of the verses upon which I base my life and faith. For example, one of my favorites is Gen 3:15, which is also on your list. I suppose then, that you honor the Woman (Jn 2:3) whom the beloved disciple must take as his mother? (Jn 19:26-27).
Another verse I find interesting is John 20:30-31:
“30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.”
Interesting that the Gospel which my evangelical brethren seem most ready to dismiss and most ready to downplay (other than John 1 and 3:16) is the one in which Jesus says the above words from the Cross to the author of the Gospel.
One of the things I have learned from having vocal cord paralysis is how painful it is to speak when you can’t breathe. I cannot breathe and speak at the same time. When I speak too long, it becomes deathly painful because I asphyxiate a bit. Every word I speak these days is deliberate. Someone being crucified asphyxiates. Jesus was asphyxiating on the Cross, and took the time to say, “Woman, behold your son,” and “Man, behold your mother,” and the disciple who calls himself the beloved, who tells us that his Gospel only includes Jesus’s most important sayings, tells us he took her into his home. In that context, was the Man who said, “Let the dead bury their dead,” and Who knew fully well His death was coming and could have done it before, *really* just tending to His mother’s temporal care, especially by putting her into the care of a non-related apostle when He had, as the Scriptures tell us, “brothers”?
Oh, speaking of “brothers,” Jesus and His followers spoke Aramaic. We know they were not multilingual since, on the day of Pentecost, the Apostles astonished everyone by suddenly being not just multilingual, but people of different languages were hearing their own tongues when the Apostles spoke.
So, while the Gospels were originally written in Greek, they were written by people whose native tongue was Aramaic, recounting stories they’d heard or witnessed that originally *happened* in Aramaic.
So in Aramaic, there is one word for “kinsmen” or “brethren.” When the Apostles wrote their accounts in “Greek,” they translated the Aramaic for “brethren” as the Greek for “brothers,” identifying James, Simon, Joseph, and as “Jesus’ brothers.” Note there are no “brothers” mentioned in the Finding in the Temple. Note that they never identify “James, Simon,” etc. as “Mary’s children.” If James, Simon and Jude were Mary’s biological sons, why would Jesus have given her to John to take care of, especially when John’s own mother was standing by the Cross, as well? (John 20:20). Also note that Jews do not name babies after their fathers, but only after deceased family members: St. Joseph could not have had a son named “Joseph” and been the just law-abiding Jew that Scripture tells he was!
Surely, there must be something to the fact that the early Church decided that she whom Elizabeth identified as Mother of the LORD (Lk 1:43).
4. Another passage that struck me as conveniently out of context is your inclusion of Matthew 16:21-26, but not Matthew 16:13-20:
Matthew 16King James Version (KJV)
16 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?
4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
5 And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread.
6 Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
7 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.
8 Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
12 Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.
13 When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.
17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
20 Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.
This is another case where knowing that Jesus spoke Aramaic is important. The Aramaic Cephas, “bedrock,” is gender neutral. Greek “Petra” for bedrock is feminine, so Matthew translated “Cephas” to “Petros,” masculine, the first ever occurrence of that name in Greek, and the first ever use of “Cephas” as a name in Hebrew. Elsewhere in Scripture, it is rendered “Cephas,” rather than Peter, though I’ve encountered people who insist that the Cephas St. Paul refers to is someone else.
Thus, Jesus, who promised to raise up descendents to Abraham from the stones told Simon that he was to be called stone and on this stone Jesus would build His Church.
21. Lastly, in John the Gospel which only told us the important stuff, Jesus gave us the “Bread of Life” discourse (John 6; whole chapter)
53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him.
When the people take offense, Jesus “doubles down,” as they say. When the Apostles take offense, Jesus points to Judas as a “Devil.”
Then, in 1 Corinthians 10 and 11, St. Paul tells us the importance of the Eucharistic meal. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Cor 10:16). This is no mere community pot luck, he tells us, for we can eat at home (1 (Cor 11:22).
For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread:
24 And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
25 After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, this cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.
26 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come.
27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
1 Cor 11:23-29
5. One other passage I find that my evangelical brethren love to cite, which is on your website, is some variant of Romans 3 (23-25, in this case), to try to emphasize “sola fide,” yet I never hear anyone cite Romans 3:31: “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law,” and Our Lord Himself says,
“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matthew 5:17-18).
5. Thank you for taking the time to consider these passages as I have considered the passages you sent me, many times in fact, as I’ve made a point since I was a young boy of being familiar with the Scriptures. God bless you in your ministry. I pray you find the fullness of Christ’s truth.
I would like to reciprocate your invitation: come experience the Real Presence of Jesus. If you’re not ready for Mass yet, come visit one of our local churches during Adoration and just spend time in silent prayer. See what the Holy Spirit can do:
Or else, enter your zip code into http://masstimes.org/
Two pairs of brothers, the J’s and the Z’s, are business partners. One day, the two younger brothers go to listen to some popular speaker and come back talking about some new guy that the other one says is even better, and how they want to drop everything and join his cult. Their business requires working at night, and things haven’t been going well. The older brothers think they’re too stressed and going kind of nuts. All night long, they work hard but get no sales. The younger brothers keep harping all shift about this new preacher, and then, in the morning, when they’re tired, and ready to go home, the guy shows up at their *office*.
And he has a bunch of people with him. And he stands their preaching. Then he tells the four salesmen to work a bit longer. Suddenly, they get a wave of sales that crash their servers! The Z brothers try to get the servers back online, while the preacher talks to the older J Brother. “Follow me,” he says, “And I will change your life and your name.”
So the four men literally drop everything to go follow the preacher. They occasionally return to work to pay the bills, but it’s not as important.
Would you do it? Peter and Andrew, the sons of Jonah, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee, did:
38 Jesus turned and saw them following him and said to them, “What are you looking for?” They said to him, “Rabbi” (which translated means Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 He said to them, “Come, and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. It was about four in the afternoon.* 40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard John and followed Jesus. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah”* (which is translated Anointed). 42 Then he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John;* you will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).(Jn 1:38-42)
1 While the crowd was pressing in on Jesus and listening to the word of God, he was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret.
2 He saw two boats there alongside the lake; the fishermen had disembarked and were washing their nets.
3 Getting into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, he asked him to put out a short distance from the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat. 4 After he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and lower your nets for a catch.”
5 Simon said in reply, “Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.”
6 When they had done this, they caught a great number of fish and their nets were tearing.
7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come to help them. They came and filled both boats so that they were in danger of sinking. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”
9For astonishment at the catch of fish they had made seized him and all those with him, 10 and likewise James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners of Simon. Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they brought their boats to the shore, they left everything* and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)
People fret about alleged “contradictions” between the accounts, but, like all attempts to challenge the “historical authenticity” of the Bible, they do so because the truth, faced head-on, is too overwhelming. Would you, if faced with Christ’s call, drop everything–or even anything–to follow Him?
I know when I have done so, I’ve been far happier then when I haven’t.
He is here, today, waiting for us. He waits for us in the Scriptures and in the Blessed Sacrament. He waits for us in the poor, the sick and the imprisoned. He wants us to follow Him and visit Him. Will we answer the call?