|Date:||April 2, 2021 - Good Friday|
A businessman well known for his ruthlessness once announced to writer Mark Twain, "Before I die I mean to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read the Ten Commandments aloud at the top.""I have a better idea," replied Twain. "You could stay in Boston and obey them."
We hear the word obedience twice in our readings today. In our second reading from Hebrews we hear:
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.
And in our Gospel acclamation taken from the wonderful hymn in Philippians 2 we hear:
Christ became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In fact, all four Gospels are steeped in Jesus' obedience to the father. And a few chapters back before the passion account we just heard from John's Gospel, Jesus tells us that anyone who loves him will obey his teaching...
Unfortunately, the common understanding of that word obedience, and what it means, is NOT what Jesus means by it, nor is it what we are called to by the Gospels. The common understanding of obedience is more precisely 'blind obedience'. In other words, carrying out the instructions of someone in authority without questioning, even without understanding. That is far from what Jesus is doing with respect to his Father's word and will, and it is equally far from what Jesus commands us to do.
The word obedience is a translation of the Hebrew word Shama - to hear. But unlike our understanding of the word hear which simply means the passive reception of the sounds and words, Shama contains a equally strong meaning of to act on those words. Those of you who are parents or caretakers for young children understand viscerally the difference between a child hearing and even understanding your words and a child who understands and acts on those words.
A few weeks ago, my wife Betsy and I were introducing our 4 year old great-granddaughter Rose to the concept of hot/cold when trying to find a hidden object. It took a few missteps and some additional instruction but she quickly got the idea that by listening to when we said hot or cold, or warmer or cooler, and acting on that word, she could quickly find the hidden object.
It occurred to me that this was a really good example of what I am called to with regard to obeying God or Jesus or the commandments. It doesn't mean to have a one time lesson in what the commandment or teaching is, and then trying to remember it as I live my life. It doesn't mean to sit and wait for God to reveal what God's plan is to me before I start. It is much more like the hot/cold, warm/cool game. I am called to enter into, and then deepen my relationship to Christ so that I become more and more attuned to what he is saying to me as I go about my life. In times of stress or trouble, and maybe even more importantly in times of peace and joy, I need to hear whether what I am doing is getting me warmer or cooler, nearer to or further from Christ. Isn't that what Jesus said as he started his public ministry: Repent. In other words, turn around - you are getting colder walking the way you are going. Turn around and walk towards me so you can find what we are all looking for: a share in the eternal life of God.
So my plan is to stay here in the apple valley and learn to obey Jesus.