I Obey, therefore I am.


Father Eugene Boylen writes extensively about the Church in his book, This Tremendous Lover. He compares the Church to a human body, with Christ as its head. We all, as members of the Mystical Body share in the life of Christ, just as each organ, each cell, in a human body shares in the life of the person. He says that there are three things necessary for the individual cell to remain a living member of the body: it must be present in the body, it must participate in the vivifying principle that animates the body, and it must work for the good of the body. For example, a bullet can be part of the body, but it does not share in the life of that body. A cancerous cell shares in the life of the body, but it works for its own ends, rather than for the over all good of the body and thus destroys the body.

An essential element in the life of the Church is obedience, a term not many of us are comfortable with today. He writes:

Obedience is obviously the law of its [The Mystical Body of Christ's] life. Every single act, even the slightest, done contrary to the will of God, cannot be shared by Christ, it is not part of the life of His Body, and therefore it has no real value. To partake in the life of the Body fully, the members must be subject to the Head - the ruling principle. The peculiar circumstances of the human soul in its membership of Christ, must always be kept in mind. Incorporation into Christ does not take away one's own personality; one has free will and retains full domain over one's own actions - one can determine what one's actions are to be. Deliberate refusal to conform to the will of God in a grave matter means mortal sin, and a consequent severing of the vital circulation that makes the soul a living member of Christ. Such disobedience is fatal. Even if the matter is not grave, the action, though not its agent, is severed from that vital circulation and the way is paved for complete severance of the agent by more serious falls in the future.

This is the classical answer to politicians who say things like they are personally opposed to abortion (grave matter) but must “follow their conscience” when it comes to matters of government. When that happens, they are not really being obedient to Christ. Some of these politicians will say that they still believe themselves “good” Catholics, but their disobedience puts them outside the Church. The same is true of priests or other dissenters who insist that the Church is wrong when it comes to her teaching of human sexuality or abortion; they, by definition, have cut themselves off from the life of the body. We cannot share in the life of Christ, we cannot participate fully in the life of the Body, and withhold something of ourselves from Christ. When that happens, we become like a cancer on the body working for its destruction rather than its good.

The difficult thing about this is that we think obedience takes away our freedom, but its just the opposite – obedience leaves us free to live fully in Christ. It is the only path to true freedom. Disobedience means that radical surgery must be performed or else there will be no life left to the body.

The other difficult thing is that the choice is up to us. Our Lord leaves us free to decide, and then leaves us to the consequences of our own decisions.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on March 9, 2006 6:59 AM.

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