Worrying, Conscience, Obedience

dont-worry-be-happy-bobby-mcferrin-cd-cover-artYour heavenly Father feeds the birds of the air and clothes the flowers of the field, even though they neither sow nor reap nor toil nor spin. Are you not more important than they? So do not worry. Your heavenly Father knows what you need. (see Matthew 6:26-32)

Comforting. Almost enough to make you sing ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy,’ by Bobby McFerrin. But the Lord had a little more to say.

Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Do not worry about tomorrow. Today has plenty of evil.

So maybe our song should be: “Ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh. Landlord said your rent is late; he might have to litigate. Don’t worry. But avoid evil.”

Anyone know the phrase contemptus mundi? Anyone know Latin? I think we could translate it: contempt for the world’s business.

Let’s start with this: Human beings seek happiness. That’s what we do. Squirrels seek nuts; dogs seek squirrels; human beings seek happiness. We would be just fine if we knew clearly what will make us happy. But we don’t.

Some people seek happiness in a full belly or a heady buzz. Some seek happiness in the esteem and honor of men. Some try to get happy by piling up money. Some want to become little Mr. or Mrs. Perfect.

crispy_bacon_1But none of it really satisfies. No one ever gets anywhere near real wisdom without realizing: This world and its business cannot, in and of itself, make me happy. I won’t truly find happiness–peaceful happiness–until I get to heaven. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God.”

Now, there’s a bit of a debate swirling around the upper echelons of the Church these days. The subject is: how the Church should interact with someone’s conscience.

I guess we could paint two cariciatures, depicting the extremes. On the one end, mindless Catholic lemmings who obey their priests like robots. I get up and say, “No meat on Fridays during Lent!” Then everyone marches home mechanically, takes the bacon out of the fridge, and drops it into the garbage, like a factory machine with a robotic arm.

On the other end of the spectrum: Priests never challenging anyone about anything. They just talk like Obi Wan Kenobi, saying, “Well, sure the sixth commandment officially says, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery.’ But what does your heart tell you? Stretch out with your feelings, Luke! Put on the blast helmet, and do whatever you want!”

Lord Jesus started by saying: “Repent, and believe the Good News.” God is God. Righteous and holy and wonderful. He will provide. Today you will confront plenty of evil. Recognize and renounce your own evil, and your heavenly Father will guide you through, and He will lead you to the higher goal.

I guess the easy thing to say would be: When it comes to exercising our consciences, we need to come down right smack in the middle of the spectrum between blind obedience and unchecked license. But I don’t believe that.

Luke on approachYes, of course, the Lord communicates directly with every individual soul, in the inner sanctuary called the conscience. Yes, He has put each of us into our own hands by giving us the power to think and act freely. Yes, only the particular individual knows enough about his or her own situation to make a prudent judgment about how to act.

But what kind of priest would start with anything other than what Jesus started with? Repent! We sinful human beings must first question ourselves, doubt ourselves. We must give the benefit of the doubt not to our own opinions, but to the Word of God. In order truly to attain freedom, we have to renounce our own self-justifying opinions and obey the Ten Commandments and the laws of the Church.

It’s not that God doesn’t love us with fatherly kindness. He wants nothing more than to share His friendship with us. He wants us to flower and flourish like the freeborn children of heaven He made us to be. He wants us to be a holy rule unto ourselves, with Him guiding us sweetly, by His interior promptings, toward heavenly bliss.

But if we imagine that this friendship of ours with God can begin with anything other than us repenting of our sins and going to confession, then we live in a dream world. If I think I’m smarter than Holy Mother Church and her ancient teachings, I’m kidding myself. If I feel that being God’s friend is easy, I’m friends with a god other than the real God.

Contemptus mundi. And contemptus sui. Contempt of myself. Not that I hate myself and want to destroy myself. But that I recognize: I have a very profound problem. I desperately want happiness. And I’m desperately ignorant regarding how.

Our heavenly Father knows how to guide us to real happiness and freedom. And He does it by giving us clear commandments to obey.

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