And yet, isn't authenticity the goal of the Christian life?
Spiritual transformation comes from Christ, yes, but it also comes from community & submission to God's authority within that community. Its not just about any one person, any one place or even God alone- everything works together. Paul's example in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 reminds us that Christ is the head but many members make up His Body. If I am "in Christ", I am part of His body, but I can't be whole without the other parts, without community.
But community is more than just being part of a church. Its more than potlucks, Mass & Bible studies. Its not always individualized & personal like when one is able to share things in common with friends... It doesn't even always mean being in agreement. And community is definitely not a ME focused thing. Its not inherently for my benefit alone, but for others. If I seek community for myself only, its truly a selfish endeavor. I think this is a key I've been missing for many years. It has kept me from Mass, reconciliation, etc. too many times. For instance, not attending Mass is a mortal sin not just because “the Church says so”... Its actually a sin against charity- the charity of God & the charity my presence can bring to others. In refraining, I am inadvertently exposing the true nature of my heart...
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church #1822, charity is defined as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His sake, and our neighbors as ourselves for the love of God”. Hmm. doesn't that sound familiar? (Mk. 12:28-21)
Remember the parable of the rich young ruler (Mt 19:16-22)? He had supposedly followed all of the commandments since his youth. What did he lack? Jesus told him to go sell all he had, give the money to the poor & follow Him. When one follows the commandments, is that not following Jesus as well? If he really loved God with all his heart, mind soul & strength, would he have any trouble leaving his possessions behind to follow? Perhaps Jesus was exposing the true nature of the ruler's heart. It appears he thought he was pious, but ended up walking away because he just couldn't part with his possessions.
On the other hand, Zacchaeus, the tax collector climbed a tree to see Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). When all was said & done, he pledged half his possessions to the poor & offered to make reparations if he had defrauded anyone. What did Jesus say to this? "Today salvation has come to this house."
Jesus exposed the hearts of two men with two very different outcomes...
What will He find in me? What will I discover that I have to change, discard or sacrifice for Him?