I found this site because I was looking for more information about my faith. I keep returning to it because it seems to have the answers I’m looking for. I usually read the Ask An Apologist forum because other people ask the questions I’ve been pondering myself and there is always a clear, concise answer backed up by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and scripture.
Lately though, the more I read the more it seems to me that we, as a Church have fallen into the trap of being more concerned with following the letter of the law rather than its spirit. When we have to ask whether or not we are permitted to attend, let alone participate in, a wedding ceremony that will take place in another church or perhaps not in a church at all; when we wonder if we should report the priest who, intentionally or not, changed one word during the liturgy; when we worry that maybe the Eucharist isn’t “real” if it’s not made in exactly the way prescribed; when we have to ask what is the least amount of time we absolutely must fast before receiving Eucharist, and whether tea or coffee are permitted; then I worry that maybe we’re too concerned with the material and not enough with the spiritual.
Didn’t Jesus admonish the Pharisees against this kind of thinking when he accused them of offering God only lip service and not their hearts? (Matt 15:1-9 and Mark 7:1-8) Jesus said that He didn’t come to abolish the Law. All the same, if you look through the gospels you’ll notice that He was always rebuking the Pharisees for their strict and mindless adherence to rules without taking into account their purpose. As an example: Jesus would repeatedly scandalize the Pharisees by performing miracles on the Sabbath. I believe His message to them was that they were abusing the gift that God had given them. God decreed that mankind should have a rest period one day out of seven, to be used to replenish himself and worship God. His people had become so caught up in what consituted “work” and what did not that, rather than a gift, the Sabbath became a burden. I think Jesus was trying to teach his disciples (the Pharisees were a lost cause) that while the law is important, it is much more important to serve God in your heart. God is more interested in our devotion to Him and loving our brothers and sisters than whether or not you picked an ear of corn on the Sabbath because you were hungry.
I once read about two rabbis debating very seriously whether or not flicking on a light switch could be defined as work and therefore unlawful on the Sabbath. This is what I meant earlier about the Sabbath becoming a burden to the Jewish people instead of a gift. When I see a question in the Ask An Apologist forum like “can a chalice be made of glass” I think to mysef “is this just flicking a light switch”. Are we so caught up in making sure we “get it right” that we miss the greater meaning?
This post has gone on too long and probably sounds borderline “protestant” if not heretical. I’m not trying to pick a fight here, just trying to find my way. I would appreciate any insights anyone has to offer.