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Monday, 13 October 2014

What is wrong with having an "obligation"?


Why is that a dirty word to so many.... I was going to say Catholics, because it is their wholesale abandonment of a sense of obligation that I've been mulling over, but really, it is not just a Catholic problem, it is a societal problem, (with the given that my experience of society is limited, pretty much, to the US.)

It is a cliche to say that the mating game being played out in this country, and in most of the "First World" ("first" in what sense? first to take our unequalled-in-the-history-of-mankind prosperity, and opportunities, and education; and used them to become spiritually impoverished, appallingly disconnected from meaningful relationships with our fellows; and in want of common sense to the degree that we revel, we glory in our failings in these departments? Maybe... I digress.)

It is a cliche to say that modern courtship suffers form a widespread fear of, or at least, an unwillingness to engage in "commitment."  It is so common that we invent words to describe it, to express this reality.
And what is this commitment from which so many shy away, if not another way of saying incurring "obligation"?
Of course, although we flee commitment in droves, we are more than willing to commit any number of acts, of what the Church quaintly calls "sin," no, no, society tells us, it's fine to commit that, just don't commit TO it.
One priest friend always said, from the pulpit, or wrote, in the parish bulletin, "holy day of Mass obligation," a difficult concept to instill in people who know that any given year the Church may or may not claim there's an obligation where there was one last year and may be again next.

But Saturday and yesterday, as we listened to those glorious readings about the Heavenly Banquet, (the Isaiah, with its promise of "juicy, rich food and pure, choice wines" breaks my heart, I've heard it at so many Masses of Christian burial,  and with its metaphor of human hospitality for Heaven, it was the only possible OT selection for the Rose, but that's neither here nor there,) it occurred to me the obligation to hear Mass every Sunday and HDoO is the same as ones obligation to go to Heaven.

In one way, one could say we don't really have one, in the sense that God respects our free will.

But the Church's laws and precepts aren't a random list of practices and ways of thinking and behaving that someone thought would be a good idea -- they FOLLOW from something, they are all connected, and the follow from natural law and God's law.
And as a result, there is a logical consistency to them.

People talk all the time about the lengthening of the period known as "adolescence" in society, how thirty somethings nowadays behave and think in ways that would not have been acceptable in anyone older than 16 or so not that long ago.
Many want to be absolved of the need to settle on a life partner the same way they put off declaring a major as long as possible, and with a similar freedom to switch at any time.

But the human heart and mind and soul are, well... human.

They are imperfect, and hardly any of us have the discipline to live up to an obligation we haven't made.
So there may be more than one reason we call practicing your religion "practicing." We need to work out. We need to continue to learn. We need to hone our skills.

In his homily the priest, (whom I love and admire, and whose preaching usually pricks my conscience or teaches me something,) spoke of how in the bad ol' days Catholics were taught that Mass is an obligation, instead of a joyous celebration we should want to attend.

I did not intend to, but I said aloud, Yeah, and how's THAT workin' out for the Church?

Only Himself heard me, but still....

I suppose that although I intended talking about the obligation of attendance at Mass, I could tease this out  as it pertains to sacramental Marriage, but I think I'm going to declare a moratorium on even letting my mind think about that, at least until after the Synod.

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