“By the Book”
I was recently reminded of a story a seminary professor once shared. My professor, a priest, was in a grocery store when someone asked him if he was a Catholic priest, to which he replied “Yes.”. The woman responded, “I’m Catholic, but in my own way.” When she asked him his feelings about her expression, he told her he would explain, but asked her to first pass him the can of peas behind her. Looking behind her, she said: “Those aren’t peas, they are peaches!” To which Monsignor replied. “Oh, but they are peas, in my own way.”
I was reminded by this story recently by someone who accused me of being a “By-The-Book-Catholic”. I am still not quite certain of the exact meaning of this term. If it means that I am informed by Sacred Scripture, and Sacred Tradition and follow the teachings of the magisterium, and if it means as our candidates stated at the Easter Vigil: “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.”, then I suppose I am guilty as charged, even though daily I fall short of living what I profess. Perhaps there are those that do not know or care what the Church teaches, which can be disheartening. However, I take to heart the words St. Paul spoke to Timothy, a younger brother in the Ministry of the Word: “Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:2-5)
The teachings of Jesus can be difficult. It’s hard to love our enemies. It’s hard to love the way the gospel calls us to love, which is often in contradiction to the secular dogmas of our age. It’s hard to speak truth amidst a dictatorship of relativism. Yet, stand we must, and at least we never do so alone.
Jesus confronts Peter with his own denial in the gospel proclaimed this week. Jesus asks Peter: “Do you love me more than these?”. He asks us the same. Do we love Jesus more than our own comfort? More than popularity? More than the easy road? None of us are perfect, perhaps we are struggling with embracing some of the more difficult teachings, and that is normal and okay, but what is important is that, at the foremost of our heart and mind, we hear the words of Christ. “Do you love me more than these?” Let us pray that the Lord will increase in us a love for him and allow us each to let go of whatever “these” may be for us.