When I was in college, I had a college sweet heart; her name was Katie and we met through our involvement at the Newman center at the University of Illinois. When it came to my own spiritual growth, Katie played a very important role in my life challenging me to grow closer in my relationship to the Lord. Katie and I dated for over year and during that time we were making plans for our engagement and wedding. Clearly the Lord had other plans!
I learned many things about myself during that relationship. One great spiritual lesson I learned was the following: “rules without relationship leads to rebellion.” I learned as I was dating that rules necessarily come with relationships. I had to learn to communicate, to inform my decision-making not just based on myself but on her needs and perspectives as well, and to make various sacrifices for the sake of the relationship. When the relationship was going well, the rules were easy and simple to follow!
However, when difficulties arose in the relationship, I started reevaluating at the all of the rules. For example, why can’t I spend time with my other friends on the weekend? Can I not decide to do with my free time as I wish? …you can probably sense the rebellious nature in the very questions themselves.
It is no different in our faith. What is clear in our readings—including in our Gospel—is that the law and commandments are part of what is required to follow Christ. It’s when we focus solely on the rules that we have a tendency to want to rebel. Thus, when I experience temptations towards rebellion springing up in my heart, I have to stop and ask myself: How is my relationship with the Lord? My relationship with his Bride, the Church?
Lent quickly approaches us, and the Church will be asking us to make the sacrifices of increased fasting, praying, and almsgiving. To some, this might feel like just another set of rules to remember, but I would like to challenge you to remember that rules without relationship inevitably lead to rebellion! Let’s keep our hearts fixed first and foremost on our relationship with the One without which these rules wouldn’t make sense!