We Must Receive Instruction From The Church As Jesus’ Own Teaching!

Why?  Because It Is His Teaching!

By: Father Daniel O’Mullane


Scratching the surface of our readings for Mass today, we discover that they are connected by a common theme. Whether it is the prophet Ezekiel’s being sent to the rebellious house of Israel, the Psalmist’s pleading for the Lord’s mercy, Paul’s strength in weakness, or Jesus’ unfavorable homecoming, what we see is the importance and effect of our posture of heart before God.

 So what is your posture of heart? How do you approach God? Do you seek him out and follow him with a humble heart, or do you ignore his advances and refuse to follow him in pride?

Jesus’ Teachings Are Challenging
We see in today’s Gospel passage that many who heard Jesus were astonished. They realized that he spoke as one having authority; as one who spoke for God. “That sounds great,” we like to think, “if only I could hear God speak, I’d be right behind him.”
There are two problems with that thought, though. Firstly, the Scriptures tell us that God’s messengers are often rejected. Jesus is a much more challenging figure than most people imagine, and following him is a demanding proposition. That’s what we see throughout the Gospels: many come to entrust their lives to Jesus, following him in faith. Others, having heard God’s Word, still choose to go it alone.
The second problem with the thought that we would follow God if only we could hear him speak is the fact that Jesus speaks to us today with perhaps more clarity than he did in his hometown 2,000 years ago. That might sound crazy, but just bear with me for a minute.
Jesus came to reconcile us to God. He has brought us into communion with God, and that’s right where he wants us to stay. Giving this a moment’s thought, we are sure to see that following Jesus requires right knowledge of what to believe and how to act. To save us from our own errant opinions and actions, Jesus gave Peter the keys to his kingdom to instruct us in these crucial ways. This is more or less what we’re getting at when we say that the Pope is preserved from the possibility of error when, “in the exercise of his office as shepherd and teacher of all Christians… he defines a doctrine concerning faith or morals to be held by the whole Church.
So, here’s our first challenge.
We must receive the instruction of the Church as Jesus’ own teaching. This we can do in at least two practical ways.  Firstly, we have to become more docile to Church teachings and more responsive to the voice of the Pope and our Bishop. We need to let go of the tired line that the Vatican is a bunch of old bachelors who don’t know what’s going on in the real world. We must move past the excuses we afford ourselves that the Church is behind the times, that priests are incompetent or evil, and so on. If you have a reason why you can’t or won’t go with the Church on any particular issue, it’s time for some good self-scrutiny.
Secondly, we have to do the work. When we find ourselves thinking that the Church has it wrong, the obligation is on us to discover what’s really being taught and take it to heart. Every adult should have the Catechism of the Catholic Church on hand for such purposes.
Our second – and final – challenge is at least as important as the first.
In the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church we read that, “Christian prayer is the personal and living relationship of the Children of God with [our] Father who is infinitely good, with His Son Jesus Christ, and with the Holy Spirit who dwells in [our] hearts.”
Here’s the challenge: do we pray? Do we have this “living relationship with [our] Father?”
Maybe the biggest barrier for us in our relationship with God our Father is that we have to see ourselves as children. This year at a school Mass I asked everyone to raise their hands if they knew that God loves them. Every child’s hand shot up with reckless abandon. Every adult’s hand stayed firmly in place.
If we take Jesus at his word that we must have the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of God, the story shows we’re in a bit of trouble.  So, let’s take a look at a child to see what faith might mean.
We Must Become Like Little Children
My favorite little people are toddlers. They’re starting to get a handle on how to speak, and they run off in every direction when given half the chance. Their personalities are already coming through, and you can’t help but think of what they’ll be like in the not-so-distant future. They’re fiercely independent people, and their favorite word, which they use to the point of infuriation, is no.
But toddlers also, and often, realize their limitations. They set out on adventures they cannot complete; they find themselves in fearful places they can only escape with a cry; and they can’t put on their socks, tie their shoes, get strapped in, or change the channel without help.
A toddler is also particularly aware of his mother. Having been nursed at her breast or held to her heart from the time of his birth, he has learned that his mother is the source and sustenance of his life. When the distance between mom becomes too great to bear, when the child is unsettled by his independence, the toddler runs back to her loving embrace to be restored and comforted. Only when the child realizes his weakness can he return to the source of his strength.
This is what St. Paul is getting at when he is talking about strength in weakness.
We just have to realize we are God’s toddlers for it to make sense.  Think about it. We don’t always know how to speak, especially to God, but he loves our every effort.
We’re fiercely independent, but what can we do without God’s help? Setting off on our own always leads to heartache, but no matter what unsettles us, no matter what adventures we begin that we’d rather cut short, God is there with arms outstretched to restore us, to comfort us, and to strengthen us with his love. Even though we approach him with the weakness of vulnerable humility, we are never stronger than when we are held in his embrace.
Like A Toddler, We Must Trust Completely
The faith of a child is a deep-rooted trust in his mother’s ability and desire to care for him. The toddler’s faith in his mother allows him to entrust himself, with his every need and desire, to her goodness. In like manner, and over the course of many months and years, we entrust ourselves to God.
The life God wants for us begins right now. Today, allow yourself to be pressed to God’s heart. Sit in silence for ten minutes or more and turn over to him every movement of your heart.  Your growth in weakness – in vulnerable humility – before God in prayer will be matched in equal measure by your growth in God’s strength.
Our heavenly Father might give us a bit of guidance along the way. The teachings of the Church – much like the parent’s dictate to eat dinner before dessert – are all intended for our own good, even though we often fail to see them as such. The rules are not intended to stifle our creativity or deny our personality, but to bring it all about more fully and freely.
Above all, God desires to keep us in his love; to have us play in his presence with all the protection he provides. Being pressed to his heart in prayer we become more confident in his love; a love, like that of a mother’s embrace, that drives out our every fear.
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6 comments to We Must Receive Instruction From The Church As Jesus’ Own Teaching!

  • KM


    I understand your question, but just how much of the history of the Inquisition and the Crusades have you studied? Also, are you familiar with the writings of Hilaire Belloc?

    Overall, the Church, via the Teaching Magisterium, has never been wrong. There were (and are), Catholics who have committed wrongs. Unfortunately, that always has an effect on the Church as a whole.

  • Kathryn

    What about the times in history when the church has been wrong? (Inquisition, crusades, etc.)

  • TG

    Great article, Father. KM, I agree with you. I started a daily prayer for priests this year. So many need the courage to be speak the truth regardless of offending anyone. Unfortunately, many are leading souls astray at so called “Catholic” universities.

  • KM


    How often do you pray for our priests? I want to encourage you to do do regularly if you have not done so. Prayer is far more powerful than we realize.

    PS My Catholic education also taught me to think and to question. This (and the many prayers of my Mom) eventually led to researching the WHY of many Catholic teachings. THAT led to a desire to have a much more intimate relationship with my Creator –> and to prayer. I honestly wish that I had learned a lot more about prayer and our call to holiness during my formal education. What a difference that would have made! 😉

  • Thank you for this and your website. It is a part of the inspiration for a Pinterest board I started called Courage Priests Engaged in Social Media. http://pinterest.com/allison_girone/courageous-priests-engaged-in-social-media/

    I think your site and your posts would be a natural for Pinterest.

    God bless.

  • Bill

    1.) I’m not docile by nature. I was taught to think at a Catholic University.

    2.)”the Vatican is a bunch of old bachelors who don’t know what’s going on in the real world.” is a true statement.

    3.) I have never believed that Priests in incompetent or evil, but the quality of priests has declined especially at the level of the local diocese.

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