There have been many times in my life when I needed guidance about what to do. I am sure that has been true for you also. Indeed, when we were young, we learned primarily from teachers. As we progressed, our teachers guided us to learn also from our experiences and observations. Unfortunately, there have also been times in my life when I thought I knew the answer to an important question, but in truth, did not. I am sure many of us can admit that. But sometimes, pride keeps us from realizing it!
Learning and discovery are amazing joys and blessings given us by God. He has given us rational minds and He expects us to use them! The most important truths He wants us to learn are truths about God, about creation and about ourselves.
- “Who is God?”
- “What is creation?”
- “Why did God make us?”
- “How am I to live according to His purpose?”
We (human beings) lost much of this knowledge—certainly any wisdom we might have had—when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. A close reading of John’s gospel reveals that Jesus was intent on doing the work of the Father that He had been given. Part of that work was to make possible the restoration of the knowledge and wisdom lost in The Fall that we had only partially regained through the millennia.
Jesus Christ proclaimed that He was the Truth! And He made sure that we who follow Him down through the years can know the Truth. There is no need to guess! He gave us the Church, not as an uncaring and tyrannical master, but as a loving, faithful teacher and mother. We see at the close of Matthew’s gospel what is referred to as the Great Commission where Jesus instructs the Apostles (the leaders of the Church) to teach all that He had commanded.
“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.’” (Matthew 28:18-20)
St. Paul, who was a later convert and leader, reminds us of the teaching office of the Church in writing to an early Catholic Bishop and co-worker named Timothy.
“I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14-15)
And St. Peter took care to remind us that the Church will always teach and that we need to understand that the prophecy of scripture is not a matter of our own, individual interpretation.
“Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.
“For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For when he received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” we heard this voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. And we have the prophetic word made more sure. You will do well to pay attention to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:12-21)
When it comes to learning about the faith, there are ditches on both sides of the road. Those who refuse to engage their rational minds, but would prefer to gain knowledge alone without understanding are mistaken. Those who refuse to be taught by the Church, but instead try to figure it all out on their own are also mistaken.
We need to learn, but like the Ethiopian Eunuch answered Philip in chapter 8 of Acts, we need to acknowledge, “How can I [understand], unless some one guides me?”
What a blessing the teaching office (Magisterium) of the Church is to us! Let us not neglect this gift, but instead show our gratitude to God.