In this modern day and age, the beliefs and teachings of the Catholic Church can seem archaic and over the top. They certainly seem this way to people outside of the Church but more and more, this pervasive belief is growing within the Church as well. It is becoming more common for people to struggle with the “demands” of the Church since they believe them to be too outdated. This is something that many Catholics find themselves struggling with but this can be especially true for young Catholics.
And truthfully, the demands of the Church can be part of what makes it so overwhelming for people.
Contraception? – No way!
Not in a state of grace? – Get to confession!
Open to life? – Always!
Live with my boyfriend/girlfriend? – Absolutely not!
The Catholic faith, when put in contrast with the modern cultural norms for people, can seem demanding.
But any faithful Catholic who has done their part in learning more about our beautiful Catholic faith knows that the “demands” of the Church are not actually demands even though it may sometimes feel that way. Jesus himself tells us, “my yoke is easy, and my burden light” (Mt. 11:28-30). He knows everything…every moment of struggle and suffering in our lives, much of which comes from our attempts to stay on the path given to us by the Church and yet He still makes the claim that His burden is light? How can that be true?
Though we differ in the degree to which we experience suffering in this life, it is a universal truth that each and every human person will suffer. And seeing as how the Bible makes it abundantly clear that those who follow Christ must pick up their crosses in order to truly follow Him, it seems contradictory for Jesus to claim that His burden is light. So how can He make such a claim?
Clearly, we are missing something…and something significant.
When we consider Jesus as He was when He walked the earth, we know that He was perfect in every way, completely sinless, which helps us to know that He was not lying or trying to mislead or manipulate anyone when He spoke the contradictory statements above. He was not falsely claiming that following Him would be an easy journey but rather, He was (and still is) inviting us to share in that journey with Him. He makes the yoke light and He makes the burden easy. Him. He warns us that our suffering is ensured when we follow Him but he also promises us that He will make our burden light.
When we look at the “demands” of the church with this in mind, we can truly have a paradigm shift that will come to benefit our souls in a significant way. We can come to understand that the “demands” of the Church are not actually demands at all but rather a gift that is being given to us by Christ Himself. Jesus knew the weakness of the human person in an extremely intimate way so He knew what we would all need to help us on our journey towards heaven. Because of this, He gave us the Catholic Church. He knew that we, in our human weakness, would fail to figure out the things necessary for our journey to heaven on our own so He established the Church to help us get there.
And we have to remember something extremely important when we feel overly burdened by following the “demands” of the Church…Jesus wants us in heaven with Him. The Church is not giving us these “demands” in order to make our lives more difficult here on earth (even if it sometimes feels like that’s the case). Jesus is using the Church to make our journey to heaven possible.
So rather than growing frustrated by the “demands” of the Catholic Church, try to keep in mind that our Savior Jesus Christ gave us that very Church to help us get to heaven. Which means that the “demands” are not demands at all, they are entreaties. The word entreaty means to ask earnestly and seriously. Jesus, through the Church, is not demanding these things of us as Catholics. He is entreating us to do these things. He wants nothing more than for us to join Him in heaven and He is not demanding that we do the things necessary for that end – He is asking us to them so that we can be with Him. We have to trust in that. Trust in Him and in His love for us.
Because the truth is, whether we view them as entreaties or demands, we don’t have to do anything that the Church expects Catholics to do. God gave us free will so we can always say “no” to any of the entreaties offered to us. We can do as we please when we please, which is a commonly accepted mentality in our current narcissistic world and one that is all too easy to embrace.
The problem though, lies in the truth that without becoming true followers of Christ, and without embracing the entreaties that He offers us so we know the right steps to take on our journey to heaven, we won’t spend all eternity with Him. Jesus entreats us to follow Him and then allows us to reject His entreaties if we so choose. In doing so, we will continue to suffer here on this earth and then suffer for all eternity after our death.
So next time living a life counter to the modern culture begins to weigh on you and you begin to desire freedom from the “demands” of the Church, picture Jesus hanging from the cross, suffering for you, in order to open the gates of heaven for you. Imagine Him meeting your hardened gaze with His loving and compassionate one, and earnestly and seriously asking you to follow what the Church entreats you to do. Because He wants to be with you.
He suffers for you. He suffers for me. He suffers for us all. His suffering and death upon the cross opened the gates of heaven once again so that we could be with Him forever. His arms as He hangs from the cross, are stretched out wide, waiting to embrace you. When you consider Him on the cross like this, does what the Church require you to do still feel like demands to you? Or do they feel like loving entreaties to help you on your journey to heaven? Your journey to Him?
So, pick up your cross and follow Him. Trust in Him as you take on His yoke. He is waiting for you.