5 May 2016
Tradition is a tricky thing to maneuver. On the one hand, it keeps us grounded in what’s important; it actually helps us to live more freely. But on the other hand, tradition can also become like an anchor, or like a blindfold, which keeps us rather earth-bound and limited.
For some of the Jews, their tradition actually helped them to recognize Jesus for who he was: he was the fulfillment of their tradition. But for other Jews, that same tradition made them blind to Jesus. For them, he was a threat to their tradition.
Even among Christ’s early disciples, traditional thinking about faith and world got in the way of them understanding what Jesus was trying to tell them. They were trying to mesh together what their religious and intellectual tradition told them, with what Jesus was trying to tell them. And it didn’t always go well.
Of course, we’re pretty familiar with this dynamic in today’s Church. How often do we hear fellow Catholics referred to as “traditionalist and conservative” or “liberal and progressive” rather than as “brothers and sisters” in Christ? More often than not, I would say. And, among other reasons, it seems to come from how we relate to this thing called “tradition.”
Perhaps it’s helpful to remember that “tradition” is a living thing—it’s not about “doing things the way we’ve always done them.” Instead, it’s about receiving and passing along what’s important and valuable. For us Catholics, the core of our tradition is Christ himself, and our simple faith that he is who he says he is. We celebrate that in a million different ways, and we delve into the mysteries of our faith with prayer, spirituality, theology, and so on.
But at the core of our living Catholic Tradition is simply Christ and our faith in him. And so, if it ever feels like the “traditionalists” or the “progressives” are taking over . . . don’t worry. Instead, hold firm to our Tradition; hold firm to Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and forever.