Sunday, 31 January 2016

More Reflections on Obedience

I have blogged about Obedience before (here, and elsewhere, passim) because it is so counter-cultural, and so critically important to the Christian life.

If one considers the miracle at Cana, it is instructive to note that the servants obeyed Christ, not because they had any reason to think He was doing anything useful: they may well have thought the contrary - particularly the one instructed to take the water to the Steward of the feast to taste. (Incidentally, architriclinus the Latin for Steward, is a very difficult word to sing, as we found last week...). Rather, they knew that obedience is required of people in their position.

And obedience is required of us, of people in our position, for several reasons. One is that we are creatures, subject to the authority of God. The very term Our Lord (and perhaps that is why it is out of vogue) requires submission to the Lordship of Christ. And the Church has always heard Our Lady's words to the servants, Do whatever he tells you, as a command to all of us.

The most obvious and compelling reason, of course, is that imitation of Christ, which is at the heart of the Christian calling. It is very fashionable to see Christ as some kind of anarchist, who broke the rules. But that, it strikes me, is a very naive reading.

Even at His birth, He chose to place Himself under the civic authority: it was due to obedience to Caesar that He was born in a stable at Bethlehem. The mysterious incident of the Finding of the Child Jesus in the Temple is also worth considering. Our Lady and St Joseph were astonished: clearly He had never appeared disobedient to them before this occasion, and the Evangelist makes it clear that He resumed that pattern of obedience to them immediately afterwards: He went home and was subject to them.

The incident itself, as He makes clear, was in obedience to His heavenly Father, as indeed was His whole life. 

We can reflect also on His obedience to the authority of John the Baptist, calling people to be baptised in the Jordan; His obedience to the paying of the Temple tax; His obedience in instructing people to pay their civil taxes (render unto Caesar), and so on. What He did not obey were man-made customs that had no proper authority, but these were exceptions to the pattern, not the pattern itself.

And as noted before, the over-arching theme of His life was obedience to His heavenly Father. Nowhere is that clearer than in the Passion, and St Paul makes it clear in Romans that it was through this obedience that the evil of Adam's disobedience was finally put right.

I believe that it is only in obedience that we are able properly to cooperate with Christ's saving work, and submit to whatever He asks of us. But every force in our fallen nature and in our society and its dominant thinking, culture and values, rebels at that notion.

So that is, perhaps, the first of my resolutions for this Lent: to seek opportunities to obey.

Fiat voluntas tua!

1 comment:

Celia said...

The other virtue notably lacking these days and essential, I think, to obedience is humility. Always a difficult one, of course, but especially in our current narcissistic society.