“The abuse of anything does not abrogate the lawful use thereof.”
Anything can be abused – even Christianity (at which point it ceases being Christianity.) Ideas can be very good an legitimate until they are abused. When someone abuses the idea the whole idea tends to be thrown out as suspect.
Take the idea of obedience. Citizens of the United States have a particular revulsion of this word. We know the abuse of it and so are on guard against the slightest hint of it that would brush up against our will. Because of this it is a difficult concept about which to preach or to assist fellow Catholics to believe in. Immediately one’s abuse antenna goes up and examples of times when abuses have been practiced on others who were too willing to obey.
Obedience cannot be mindless. Proper however leads to freedom.
A young person came to see me the other day and wanted to know about the laws of God and why we should obey them. I asked him what was one his favorite things to do. “Go on roller coasters,” he replied.
“What does the roller coaster operator say every time before the ride begins?”
“Put your seat belt on and keep your legs and arms in the car at all times.”
“Why do you suppose they say that?”
“So that you will be safe.”
So it is. We are obedient to this authroity in order to stay safe and so enjoy more complete freedom (as opposed to license.) And so it is with God. As our creator He knows of a way we should live so that we remain safe, that we are healthy in mind, body, and soul, and so that our relationships remain healthy. When we disobey His laws we bring harm in some fashion into the world. We call that sin. So to be obedient to God’s law is to grow in freedom because we are becoming fully human.
It must be a thoughtful obedience however. Just because a priest tells you something does not mean you have to follow it. Search long enough and you will find a priest willing to tell you what you want to hear. It doesn’t mean anything unless the priest too is obedient.
God’s ways are not always discernable. Mary is approached by an angel and told that she is about to have a son. She is confused and concerned about the vow she and Joseph took in their marriage to remain free from relations. The angel “explains” that she will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. Mary then says, “Yes,” as if THAT explained everything.
Now, we hear this story all the time so it might seem natural to us by now. But in my way of thinking, being told that I will be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit explains just about nothing – and consider that Mary does not have 2,000+ years of having heard this story. But she is obedient to God.
In theory, Mary could have said no. She could have fought God. But in which scenario would she have been happier? In which scenario would she have had more freedom? It is a question young people discerning a vocation to the religious or priestly life often face. They are often counseled by well meaning others to marry where they will be happier. But if you are called by God, where will you find more happiness and freedom? It is a laying down of burdens that one does not need to carry to say yes to God’s will.
Of course, the question is “what is God’s will?” That is an answer sometimes easier to answer than others. That is why this is a thinking person’s faith. That is why obedience is not blind.