Young kids - Who makes the rules in your life? You know – brush your teeth, get ready for bed, eat your vegetables. Who makes the rules? For most of us, Mom makes the rules. Do we follow Mom’s rules? Most of the time – but why…because we know our Mom loves us – and that she has OUR best interest in mind. Mother knows best.
Growing up, when it was time for supper, my main concern was – what’s for dessert. I don’t know what difference it would make – I was a dessert-a-holic, so I would always have room for dessert. There was one rule about dessert normally – you only get one helping. One piece of cake, one piece of pie, maybe two cookies – but there was a limit set. Who set the limit? You guessed it – Mom. Mother knows best.
There was one exception to the dessert rule though – we would make a six-quart or eight-quart freezer of ice cream – and the rule was – eat it all if we can. For some reason, DAD made the rules when it came to eating homemade ice cream, so the standard procedure was to finish it off. We’d have contests to see who could eat the most. That habit has stuck with me all of my life. I remember the first time I went to a friend’s house to make some, he dished me out a small bowl of ice cream started putting the rest away in the freezer! Until that moment, it never OCCURRED to me that it wasn’t Everyone’s standard rule to eat until you go into a sugar coma.
That got me thinking – why WAS it OK for us to eat a bunch of homemade ice cream, but only one helping of any other dessert? Besides the fact that Dad made that rule, I figured out there was a decent reason. Our recipe growing up was pretty much milk, egg, and sugar…and of course, vanilla – LOTS of vanilla. We didn’t use cream, so it wasn’t all that fattening. So, Mom must have decided it wasn’t necessary to try to enforce the single-helping rule.
However, as I grew up, somewhere along the line I discovered that if you put cream in the ice cream, it tastes good – REALLY good. The problem is –I still have that habit of eating four or five bowls. Maybe I should re-consider… maybe I should take another look at MOM’S rule about single helpings and see if it might make me healthier and happier in the long-run. Mother knows best.
Apply that to your own life. What laws did Mom make that really made a lot of sense?
For some reason, when we reach our teenager years, we tend to start rebelling against the decisions that Mom made. We seem to think that her decision that we should be home at 11 pm is just a willy-nilly random decision. In fact, - Mom KNOWS how teenagers work – and if she didn’t set a limit, we would stay out all night with our friends. That might sound like fun, but Mom knows we need sleep so we can do our school work, our job, or even just to stay healthy and not become crabby. Mom’s rules are there for our own good. When Mom tells us to brush our teeth, she’s trying to build a habit in us so that we’ll do it all our lives and hopefully avoid having to get dentures as we get older. When Mom tells us to help with the dishes, it’s so that we develop a sense of responsibility and cleanliness that will keep us healthy – and more socially acceptable. You know – who wants to marry somebody who doesn’t help with the dishes? Mother knows best.
You’re probably wondering by now what any of this has to do with today’s readings…: In the first reading, there’s a dispute over circumcision. Now – for those who don’t know what circumcision is, let me just say it has to do with cutting off a flap of skin from a man’s private parts. Normally, we all get it done as infants, so the pain and danger to us is minimized. Anyway – the Apostles and early Christians had a debate about whether Circumcision should be required to join the Catholic Church. This was a BIG deal – it had the potential of splitting apart the church when it was only a few years old. The reason it was such an issue is that it was part of God’s law…He had TOLD the Israelites that all males shall be circumcised. It became one of the founding principles of their Faith that separated them from the people around them. They still considered this to be an irreversible law of God even after Jesus came. As you can imagine, however, if you were a Gentile and considering becoming Christian – and one of the requirements of being a Christian was that you had to allow somebody to take a knife to your private parts, you might be a bit reluctant to want to join the Church.
So, the leaders of the Church had to decide – is this important or not? They decided it was NOT a showstopper. What’s important is belief in Jesus. We didn’t need to follow all of those old prescriptive laws that the Pharisees prided themselves with following.
Most of us today are still circumcised though…is it because it’s the law of God? No – it’s because it’s a matter of hygiene – that flap of skin tends to hold dirt and germs, so getting rid of it is considered to be healthier for everyone. We do it because it’s the smart thing to do – not because it’s the law.
For example, let’s say you’re driving out to the lake and you’re coming to the top of a tall hill and there’s a tractor chugging along …so you slow down…but you’re getting impatient because he’s moving so slow. Would you pass him? No way – you can’t see if anybody is coming over the hill, so you do the smart thing and stay behind him until you get over the top of the hill. Now - God never told us not to pass somebody on a hill, did he? It’s not like one of the 10 commandments – but we all KNOW it’s the smart thing to do. Same with circumcision – it’s not required to be a Christian – but it’s the smart thing to do.
Here’s a question for you …Who gave the leaders of the Church authority to decide what was required to be a Christian? Jesus did – several times in the Gospels he gave them His authority – AND He sent the Holy Spirit to “guide them to all truth”. Our Mother, The Church, continues to guide all of us. Mother knows best.
But – like teenagers – we sometimes want to rebel against the rules that our Mother Church has given us. Fasting is a perfect example. It used to be a RULE of the church, so every Catholic followed the practice of fasting on Fridays religiously. At Vatican II, they changed the RULE – because they recognized that we were fasting for the wrong reason. Fasting is supposed to help us to pray better – to offer up some self-denial as a prayer – to practice self-discipline of our bodies so that we can carry that discipline into our spiritual actions as well. Instead, we were just eating Fish on Friday – but never giving thought to why. So – just like the first reading – the leaders changed the rule. The new rule is that everyone is supposed to perform SOME act of fasting or self-discipline of Fridays. We get to choose – but we should be doing SOMETHING to make The point is – just like circumcision – it has nothing to do with earning our salvation, but it is still a solid, healthy spiritual habit.
Let me take that one step further – the Church’s teaching on sex outside of marriage. I think every one of us can logically see how our society would be better off if we all followed that rule… Because so many ignore the rule, families are broken up, lives are ruined, kids grow up without both parent. Our Mother Church gives us the rule because it’s the right thing to do. Same thing goes for all other rules we want to rebel against: reconciliation, abortion, contraception, and tithing….I mean, who gives 10% to God like we’re supposed to?
What’s the challenge for the week? To seek the Peace that Jesus promised in the Gospel today – but remember he said ‘not as the world gives do I give it to you’. The world would tell us that we would have the most happiness and peace if we can do whatever we want, whenever we want. But Jesus knows that we’ll actually be happier, healthier and more peaceful if we follow the rules that he gave us. Like passing on a hill – there are two ways to look at it. We could get upset because we don’t want anybody telling us when and where we can pass. Or – we can thank God we live in a society where, for the most part, people follow the rules… so we can safely drive over a hill and trust that there won’t be somebody else coming at us on the other side. Only God and Mom know what will hit us if we don’t follow the rules. Mother knows best.