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Obedience Like Christ’s
Tuesday of the Fifth Week of Lent
Jesus said to the Pharisees: “I am going away and you will look for me, but you will die in your sin. Where I am going you cannot come.” So the Jews said, “He is not going to kill himself, is he, because he said, ‘Where I am going you cannot come’?” He said to them, “You belong to what is below, I belong to what is above. You belong to this world, but I do not belong to this world. That is why I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “What I told you from the beginning. I have much to say about you in condemnation. But the one who sent me is true, and what I heard from him I tell the world.” They did not realize that he was speaking to them of the Father. So Jesus said to them, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will realize that I AM, and that I do nothing on my own, but I say only what the Father taught me. The one who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Because he spoke this way, many came to believe in him.
Opening Prayer: Lord, your condemnation of the Pharisees reminds me that my actions have consequences. Prepare my heart to receive the message you have for me today and help me to rid myself of anything that keeps me from loving you.
- Harrowing Distinctions: Christ told the Pharisees that they would die in their sin and would not be joining him in heaven. “I have much to say about you in condemnation,” Jesus told them. Any of the believers listening to this exchange would likely have shuddered listening to the fate of the Pharisees. The Pharisees, however, seemed to miss the import of Christ’s words. “Who are you?” they asked. Living for the world, being of the world, belonging to the world truly blinds us to the presence of Christ in our lives. Faith in the great “I AM” raises us above worldly concerns and unveils the mysterious workings of Christ on our behalf. Lord, help me to believe!
- Perfect Obedience: Christ looked to please his Father in all things. Whether in good times, such as at the wedding in Cana, or in difficult times, like in the Garden of Gethsemani, Jesus said, “I always do what is pleasing to him.” From Christ’s perspective, obedience was uniting his actions to his Father’s desires. Christ’s obedience was an expression of his love for the Father.
- Many Believed: Although the Lord condemned the Pharisees, he did so with absolute authority and a compassionate heart. He identified with the Father and claimed “I AM,” which the Jews of the day would interpret as either blasphemy or the truth. He seemed, by the force of his statements, to be pleading with his listeners to believe, and the Gospel tells us that many did indeed believe. How compelling the person of Christ must have been!
Conversing with Christ: You pleased God the Father in all you did. You knew that everything the Father asked was born of love and had love as its purpose. I want to see your obedience to the commands of your Father as signs and expressions of his love for me. Help me, likewise, to obey you in all things.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an elongated visit to the Eucharist.
For Further Reflection: Obedience: The moral virtue that inclines the will to comply with the will of another who has the right to command. Material obedience is merely to carry out the physical action commanded; formal obedience is to perform an action precisely because it is commanded by a legitimate superior. The extent of obedience is as wide as the authority of the person who commands. Thus obedience to God is without limit, whereas obedience to human beings is limited by higher laws that must not be transgressed, and by the competency or authority of the one who gives the orders. As a virtue, it is pleasing to God because it means the sacrifice of one’s will out of love for God. (Etym. Latin obedientia, obedience.)
Father Joshua West is a Legionary of Christ priest serving as chaplain at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.