Obligations

When discussing Lent and Holy Days of Obligation with my Protestant friends, some of them give each other and me strange looks. I guess they see the term “obligation” associated with a law of some sorts. My question is, doesn’t this form a new kind of law for us, given by the Church? I am very willing to submit to Her authority; however, I don’t understand why exactly we are bound to such things under pain of sin.

I am not trying to rationalize away my involvement in these obligations. I just want to understand them more and be able to explain them to others.

There are five “precepts” of the Catholic Faith. These are rules only, and not doctrine, although these particular rules are very ancient and have never changed (though they could, at any time). Attendance on Holy Days of Obligation is one of these five precepts.

People often accuse the Church of imposing MANY rules. In fact, the Church imposes only five.

Catholics agree to adhere to these few rules during our Confirmation.

If someone makes a promise, and then violates this promise, it is (potentially) sinful. It does not matter what the promise entailed, provided it was not immoral.

David, I know I could google it, but would you be willing to post the five precepts. :blush:

ccc 2041-2043:

2041 the precepts of the church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the very necessary minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of god and neighbor:

2042 the first precept (“you shall attend mass on sundays and holy days of obligation and rest from servile labor”) requires the faithful to sanctify the day commemorating the resurrection of the lord as well as the principal liturgical feasts honoring the mysteries of the lord, the blessed virgin mary, and the saints; in the first place, by participating in the eucharistic celebration, in which the christian community is gathered, and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days.82

the second precept (“you shall confess your sins at least once a year”) ensures preparation for the eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.83

the third precept (“you shall receive the sacrament of the eucharist at least during the easter season”) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the lord’s body and blood in connection with the paschal feasts, the origin and center of the christian liturgy.84

2043 the fourth precept (“you shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the church”) ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.85

the fifth precept (“you shall help to provide for the needs of the church”) means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the church, each according to his own ability.86

the faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the church, each according to his own abilities.87

It is important to find common ground. The word precepts is something some non-Catholic Christians should be familiar with. They are the minimum requirements which God expects from us.

Catholics believe that Christ speaks through the Church, and that the Church teaches us the precepts of Christ. We call these “obligations”.

Non-Catholic Christians have precepts, even if they don’t call them by that name. In it’s simplest form it is to believe in Jesus Christ or accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, or some expression of that idea.

Many non-Catholic Christians also understand the obligation to worship God, however they might define worship. We all understand that we owe God worship, it is His by right. They might not express it as “holy day of obligation” but we have all heard non-Catholics say things like, “you must bend the knee.” The obligation to “bend the knee” is almost universally understood. This is a precept.

In fact, one of the most popular non-Catholic Bible studies around Kay Aurthur’s “Precept on Precept” by precept.org.

Both non-Catholics and Catholics have precepts or obligations, and some are quite similar. We express them differently and believe differently about whether the Church can bind us to those obligations on behalf of God. But we all have obligations.

-Tim-

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