Thursday, December 11, 2014

Don't Blame the Signpost For Telling You That You're Going The Wrong Way

“When a wise man points at the moon, the fool only looks at the finger."

—Attributed to Confucius


When you look at a painting of John the Baptist, the common trend is to portray him as pointing to Christ. This is done whether the picture of Jesus is of an infant, and adult or as the Lamb of God. The symbolism is a good one. John the Baptist did not do his mission for its own sake. His mission was intended to point to Christ and call people to prepare to receive Him. The disciple of John the Baptist who would be trying to put Christ in opposition to John the Baptist would be missing the point. As John the Baptist explained:

25 Now a dispute arose between the disciples of John and a Jew* about ceremonial washings. 26 So they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing and everyone is coming to him.” 27 John answered and said, “No one can receive anything except what has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said [that] I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him. 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom; the best man, who stands and listens to him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made complete. 30 He must increase; I must decrease.” (John 3:25-30)

John’s message and mission was not a rival of Christ, but a signpost. People were free to ignore him, and some did. But he was there to point the way to Christ, and people who had a problem with him ultimately had a problem with God.

In some ways, we are seeing people make this same mistake with the Church as was made with John the Baptist. They look at the Church and get angry with what she says must be done if we are to follow Christ. They see the Church teaching as “judgmental” and want her to change her teachings to their own benefit—whether behavior or political ideology.

But the Church points to Christ when she says that we must do X or we must not do Y. If she changes her teaching to satisfy critics, she no longer points to Christ, and can no longer be a signpost.

Basically, it is foolish to judge the Church teaching on faith and morals as being a manmade imposition on people. The Church believes she is continuing the mission given to her by Christ, and will not change from saying “X is wrong” to saying “X is OK."

A person can either heed the Church as the signpost to Christ and follow her teaching, or one can reject the Church and go his or her own way. If they do so, they have nobody but themselves for going the wrong way.

I choose to follow the Church because I believe she points to Christ, and was given the authority and the responsibility to do so. This means I have been forced to reject some of my ideas and political beliefs when I learned they went contrary to what was right. As a Catholic, participating in the mission given by Christ, I am called to explain to them why the Church teaches they should go this way and not that way, but I can’t compel them to follow the signpost established by Our Lord. When they choose another way, all I can do is pray for them to return. When they are abusive of me, all I can do is pray for them and turn to The Lord for strength and consolation.

But I won’t change my ways to deny the teaching of the Church because I believe that she is the Church established by Christ and I will be faithful to Him in obeying the teaching of this Church.

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