St Francis Q&A

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Obedience: the road to freedom and unity

As the recent discussion on the different approaches to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist (transubstantiation vs. consubstantiation) gets more complex and difficult to follow, I would like us to take a step back with a comment from an anonymous blogger about obedience:

“…obedience is necessary for all of us (and really hard for most of us). I think it’s only when we exercise it will we learn to submit and be truly free.”

I post the above comment in relation to the discussion on the Eucharist in order to make the general point of obedience to Christ as head of the Church. Obedience to Christ as head of the Church means that we are faithful to Christ through the teachings of his Church. The foundation for this obedience is the belief that Christ’s teachings didn’t end in 33 A.D.; rather, they have continued for 2000 years through the Church he founded on the Apostles, the Catholic Church. In short, to be obedient to Christ is to be obedient to the Church (which continues to present His teachings).

There is much evidence from Sacred Scripture which shows that Jesus intended the Church to not only continue his teachings, but to teach with His authority. In Matthew 28:18-19, he makes it clear: “all power in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. Other passages in which our Lord gives teaching authority to the Church include Mt 16:19, Mt 18:18, Lk 10:16. His prayer to the Father in John 17 indicates that the Church not only shares in Christ’s immense authority, but also in His glory: “And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one” (v. 22).

One of the main reasons Christ established the Church and gave the Church his authority to teach (as well as govern and sanctify) was so that we “may be one, as (the Father and Son) are one”. For 1500 years, the Church was one. Then, reformers “protested” against the Church and her authority. They rejected the validity of almost all of the sacraments, changed Scripture (from “this is my body” to “this symbolizes my body”, e.g.) to meet their new theology, and started their own “Church” (there are now almost 30,000 different Protest-ant denominations). The Reformation was a protest against obedience, grounded in pride which is the antagonist to obedience.

Regarding the specific teaching on the Eucharist, we see how chaotic and complex things get when one is not obedient to the tradition of the Church. It is pretty clear to any person of faith and reason that Jesus teaches in John 6 that the Eucharist is His Body and Blood and then institutes the Eucharist at the Last Supper (“this is my body”). St. Paul confirms this in his letter to the Corinthians (circa 54 A.D.) and the Church taught that “the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” as early as 110 A.D (St Ignatius of Antioch). We can know that this is the Truth about the Eucharist because it is from the Church who has been led for 2000 years by the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of Truth (who) will guide you to all truth” (Jn 16:13).

Obedience to the Church is obedience to the Spirit of Truth. “I think it’s only when we exercise (obedience) will we learn to submit and be truly free.” And, through obedience to the Body of Christ, we will be one as the Father and Son are one.


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