Many Catholics believe church culture is the same as basic tenets of the faith. Challenging custom is then synonymous with challenging the faith.
Every thinking, praying, honest person who seeks the Spirit of in his own heart experiences conflict with those who are afraid of the inner spiritual life. They fall back on fulfilling the letter of the law, even if that law is simply tradition.
Jesus called this sort of believer a Pharisee. This religious spirit chains many believers; they focus on outer conformity to tradition. If we understand the difference between cultural tradition and a relationship with God, our focus changes. All we want to do is allow God to love us and pass it on to those around us.
Don’t jump to conclusions. I do believe that the Catholic Church is the fullest expression of revealed truth; that is why I converted 38 years ago. I submit to the Magisterium of the Church. However, I agree with Mother Theresa and Jean Vanier: we are called to love people where they are. When we do, then non-essentials fall away.
Even though we are free, if we notice our behaviour upsets “weaker brethren,” we should refrain so we do not cause them to stumble (Melanie’s version of St. Paul). Fear, especially fear of the Living God, often freezes people into rigid patterns of behaviour. If we understand reasons behind irrational beliefs, it is possible to empathize with our accusers. In love we can make the right decisions. Sometimes we must gently speak the truth and sometimes we simply stay quiet and love.
When we die we will all see clearly and realize that we really did not understand as much as we think we did anyway. St. Paul says we see through a mirror darkly. Holy men realized the closer they actually got to God, the less the really knew. They were the simple souls who simply looked at God and let Him gaze with love on them in return.
We are not alone. God loves all of us in spite of our foibles and sin. None of us knows a heck of a lot about God or what He really thinks yet He treats us with humour and kindness. The least we can do is extend that same kindness to others.
Copyright 2015 Melanie Jean Juneau.
Art: Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, God the Father (1591-1666), in the public domain.