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Do-Don't

Friday, August 26, 2016 - Updated: 7:00 am

It’s amazing to me how, oftentimes unexpectedly, we get the nudge to travel down memory lane. And as I go deeper into my senior years, those journeys become more frequent.

For most of our students, the school year has begun. Every year, I receive an invitation from our three Catholic colleges — Duquesne University, La Roche College and Carlow University — to mark the beginning of the academic year with a Mass of the Holy Spirit.

As I was making my preparations, my mind took me back to my first days of school, both in first grade and my first day of college. The good mom that she was, my mother gave me her usual prelude to the new school year by offering a list of “do’s and don’ts.”

And while I honestly admit that I did not always welcome her “do’s and don’ts,” as I look back on it today I can see that she was offering far more than good motherly advice. She was sharing, in a very real way, the wisdom of God.

“Cafeteria Catholics”

As citizens of a culture that would have us live as if we were each the center of the world, the “do-don’t” exchange can be a foreign language. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI often reflects, this resistance to being told what and what not to do is borne out of relativism — a belief that somehow “I am the center of the universe.” And don’t we sometimes even see shades of that attitude within our own community of faith?

You may have become familiar with the term “cafeteria Catholic.” That contemporary “handle” suggests a tendency to pick and choose the parts of our Catholic faith that we want to embrace and ignore the others.

As citizens of the secular world, we can easily fall prey to relativism.

That was not and is not the way of Jesus. As you and I read the Gospels we see that Jesus often spoke the language of “do and don’t.” He never spoke those words in a cold, calculating tone, but rather from a wise and loving heart. If we are going to take Jesus seriously and answer his call to be his disciples — especially at this present moment as the Church of Pittsburgh is On Mission for the Church Alive! — then we need to see the “do-don’t” flavor of the Gospel as something other than a set of rules. It is a guide for life and an invitation to open up our minds and hearts to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit, so that we follow Jesus in everything that we do and in all that we are.

Mind and heart of God

So, we can approach the Gospels in two significantly different ways.

On the one hand, we can be tempted by our secular world to see Jesus, his church and his word as an intrusion on our freedom.

Or we can see Jesus, his church and his word according to the wisdom that my mother reflected whenever she would give me the list of “do’s and don’ts” at the beginning of each academic year and beyond. As we think about what that all means, it is imperative for us to see wisdom as it truly is in the Bible: the mind and the heart of God.

And so, with that in mind, it is important that we embrace his “do’s and don’ts” in our lives as an invitation to both recognize the mind and heart of God and to embrace what it means to live it.

Praise God as he gives that wisdom. Pray God that we embrace that wisdom.


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