Thursday, 20 March 2008

Celebration of the Lord's Passion - Year A

Isaiah 52:13 - 53:12; Hebrews 4:14-16;5:7-9; John 18:1-19:42

For some reason the word obedience has been popping up all over the place lately. It started with Pope Benedict’s book A New Song For The Lord in which he says that access to God’s power, the only power worth having, because it is real power, is through obedience. Having entered my mind I now see the word everywhere.

When you come to think of it, loving obedience is the only way we humans have of expressing our relationship with God. Right from the beginning this was so. There is no other way. Adam and Eve, created by God, were established in a harmonious relationship with him which could only be expressed by obedience and destroyed by disobedience: … of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you are not to eat, for on the day you eat of it you shall most surely die.

Alas, Adam and Eve chose disobedience.

Undaunted, God in his mercy promised a Redeemer, one who would re-establish our relationship with him. And how was he to do this? You guessed it, through obedience – obedience to death.

Our beautiful reading from Isaiah today retells the sad tale clearly: We had all gone astray, like sheep, each taking his own way…

Isn’t that an alarmingly exact picture of modern society, and I’m afraid to say, of the modern, liberal catholic? We have gone astray because we take our own way. We disobey God all day long and end up in a mess.

The Saviour took the road of obedience: Harshly dealt with, he bore it humbly, he never opened his mouth, like a lamb that is led to the slaughter-house, like a sheep that is dumb before its shearers never opening its mouth.

Three times we are told in this sentence that he remained silent and in this silence we glimpse the interior obedience of his humble heart.

How difficult it is to keep our mouths shut when God’s providence corrects us, or his will calls us along a path we feel unwilling to take. How strongly we react and to all of us, as he did to Peter, Jesus says: Put your sword back in its scabbard.

We love to be in charge, to direct the course of events, even if it means going against God’s will for us. But not so Jesus who says: am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?

Jesus, the Lord and Master, surrendered himself to death and let himself be taken... . I am suddenly reminded of the words of Mary to St Gabriel: Let what you have said be done to me. Obedience, obedience, obedience!

He learnt to obey through suffering… Could he have made it any clearer for us? Jesus well knew that obedience is an expensive commodity – so expensive it could cost us our lives – but he also knew that it was the only road to salvation. He walked this road ahead of us carrying our burdens, our sins until, as our Second Reading says: having been made perfect, he became for all who obey him the source of eternal salvation.

What more is there to say? If we were lost through disobedience we are saved through obedience. He showed us the way and now it's our turn. It is up to us to eliminate every bit of disobedience to God and his Church from our lives. Every little bit. Until we do so we will never find what we are searching for.

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