By Pamela Patnode
“You may know how one ought to behave in the household of God,
which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” ~ 1 Timothy 3:15
Today’s readings are challenging right from the start. St. Paul makes two statements in the first reading that often illicit consternation. During the time of the early Church, during the centuries that have followed, and certainly in our day today, his brief comment raises ire in people for two reasons.
First, St. Paul says that should he be delayed, the people know how to behave—presumably, they should behave accordingly. What does this suggest? This statement suggests that there is a correct way to behave, a universal truth that one should obey.
Obedience. That is a problematic word in today’s culture.
Second, St. Paul also causes tension by stating that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth. This suggests another difficult word today—authority.
Americans love their freedom. Unfortunately, today, freedom is confused with license to do whatever one wants. When told that there are rules for behavior and an Authority that establishes those rules, many people bristle and wrongly think that obedience to the Church of the living God will limit their happiness.
However, the American obsession with permissiveness, license, and personal autonomy has not led to a culture of joy. Instead, we see epidemic levels of anxiety, depression, suicide ideation, addiction, and despair.
In the gospel reading, Jesus said to the crowds:
“To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did not dance. We sang a dirge, but you did not weep.’ Luke 7:31-32
Jesus observed that no matter what he or John the Baptist did, whether they fasted or feasted, people criticized their ways. This is common in our culture today.
What is the solution?
G.K. Chesterton once won a contest that the local paper was hosting. The paper asked people to send in their thoughts on the question: “What is wrong with the world today?” Chesterton responded, “What is wrong with the world today? I am.”
Although I cannot change society, I can change my heart. Rather than bristling at authority and resisting obedience, I can, like the psalmist, give thanks to God for his faithfulness and good gifts and strive to follow in His ways.
Lord, give me the grace to do Your will, even when (especially when) Your will is different from mine.
Call to Action
Spend time in prayer and/or adoration this week. Review a Guide to Confession that contains a thorough examination of conscience. Contemplate areas of your life that need change. Confess sins and give thanks for God’s mercy as we continue to follow in His way.
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