The Obedience of the Son of God
“You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” Our Lord tells us (Jn.8:32).
We talk about freedom, we sing about freedom! But what are the conditions of freedom? Freedom, yes, but one must also talk about obedience. Where freedom is not regulated by obedience, it begets slavery. Obedience overcomes the problem of the abuse of freedom.
We heard in the Gospel for the Feast of the Holy Family that Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph and was obedient to them. Today we hear about Jesus obeying His Mother’s request to save a young couple from ridicule and distress at their wedding. When Mary says, “They have no wine,” Jesus responds, “What would you have me do, Woman? My hour is not yet come.” Mary simply says to the attendants (and surely her words are meant for us as well): “Do whatever he tell you.” And Jesus, the obedient Son, turns water into wine.
It is easy for us to overlook the importance of obedience, because obedience is difficult. What could be more difficult than to say, as Jesus said in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will but thine be done” (Lk.22:42).
Even in the natural world, if you obey the laws of nature you will have freedom from natural catastrophes. If you obey the laws of the land you will not lose your freedom by ending up in prison. That is, if the laws of the land are in conformity with the Laws of God.
Our Lord, taught to obey by Mary and Joseph from His earliest years, was perfect in obedience. But if one does not learn obedience early in life, it can become next to impossible to learn it later on. Parents must be aware of this, and train their children in the virtue of obedience, even from their earliest years. St. Paul speaks to children and parents:
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for that is right. ‘Honor thy father and thy mother’ – such is the first commandment with a promise – ‘that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest be long-lived upon the earth.’ And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but rear them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord” (Eph.6:1-4).
We are all obliged to obey God and those who have legitimate authority over us on this earth. This is the only way in which true freedom is assured. But when obedience is neglected, and liberty is unregulated, tyranny, wars and chaos are the result. Freedom cannot thrive where obedience is lacking. If you obey God you are freed from the power of the devil. If you obey God’s Holy Commandments you are free from sin.
How God hates disobedience! His voice thunders from the psalms:
“Oh, that today you would hear his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meriba, as in the day of Massa in the desert, where your fathers tempted me; they tested me though they had seen my works.’ Forty year I loathed that generation, and I said: ‘They are a people of erring heart, and they know not my ways. Therefore I swore in my anger: They shall not enter into my rest’” (Ps.94:7b-11).
God is not some neutral ‘Deity’ who will allow us to do exactly as we please. And those who have rejected the Covenant, or who remain indifferent to it, are still obliged to keep God’s Laws. But without God’s grace it is impossible to keep the Commandments. The Law itself does not confer grace. St. John says:
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (Jn.1:17).
This is why the people God chose at Sinai proved to be so stiff-necked and disobedient, except for the few who had faith in God’s promise to send a Redeemer (Gn.3:15). And this is why God is disobeyed and His Commandments almost universally despised today. Draw your own conclusions! Because Jesus Christ is denied, grace is withheld, and without grace human nature cannot overcome the effects of Original Sin.
The most terrible punishment is reserved for those who break the Covenant. This is spelled out in the Book of Leviticus in the Holy Bible, where seven Covenant woes or curses are pronounced against the unfaithful, which would become seven times more intense with each succeeding infidelity. God warned them:
“But if you do not heed me and do not keep all these commandments, if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees…I…will punish you with terrible woes…” (Lev.26:4-6).
Jesus would invoke these seven woes against the Pharisees. Those who rejected Him would experience the terrible consequences of breaking the Covenant, when Jerusalem and its Temple were utterly destroyed in 70 A.D. But God is consoled by the obedience of His own Divine Son. These were the words of Jesus to the Pharisees:
“When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that of myself I do nothing: but that I preach only what the Father has taught me. And he who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, because I do always the things that are pleasing to him” (Jn.8:28-30).
We must also strive to be perfect in obedience, and always do the things that are pleasing to God. Do we not promise to do so every day when we say the words:
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven”?