My first encounter with a gentleman in RCIA class today was interesting. I told him at the beginning that despite his lack of understanding the Catholic Church, that I would learn as much from him as he would learn from me. I wanted to encourage him to challenge me, ask me questions, and not to be afraid of insulting me. I told him that I would not know the answer to every question he asked, but I would find the answer, and thereby have a learning experience myself.
He expressed the notion that belonging to a specific church was not a necessity for him. He was there primarily because his wife, a fallen away Catholic, was coming back to the faith and wanted their marriage blessed. It seemed as though he wanted to be married in a church, not necessarily THE Church.
We talked some about the apostolic roots of the Catholic Church, but to him, all Christian churches were pretty much the same. It was just a matter of which style of worship suited the individual person. In an attempt to get our point across, I showed a DVD called, “Why do I need the Church?” from the Symbolon series, by Doctor Edward Sri. The segment focuses on why the Church is of Divine origin, necessary to safeguard the message of Jesus Christ while provide a source of grace through the sacraments.
In the discussion that followed, the man said all he heard repeatedly was, “you need, you need, you need.” He said the Church should be something you WANT, not just something you NEED. I replied by saying, "I want a cheeseburger. I don’t necessarily need a cheeseburger, but I do need nourishment. I can want something not realizing that it may be something I also need." If we are continually motivated by wants, we may not be aware of our needs. I don’t know whether he really accepted my explanation, but I hope it made him think.
After the session was over, I continued to ponder our conversation. If we continuously get what we want, we can lose sight of what we need. If I get a cheeseburger whenever I want a cheeseburger, and a pizza whenever I want a pizza, I don’t ever think of what I actually need to sustain my life. The only way to consciously be aware of the necessity of nourishment is when we are hungry. Isn’t this precisely why we as Catholics are encouraged to fast and abstain at times from what we want? This hunger makes us aware of our fragility and dependence, and to be honest, I had not thought much about fasting lately.
I don’t know whether our discussion got through to the gentleman in our RCIA session, but it brought some clarity to my understanding why we need to occasionally deny our wants. If we never find ourselves wanting, we will lose awareness of our needs. When we unwittingly ignore our needs, whether they be physical or spiritual, death will eventually follow. If we are aware of our needs, the wanting will follow.