HOMILY FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF LENT YEAR B
HOMILY THEME: OBEDIENCE OF FAITH
BY: Fr. Gerald M. Musa
These days it is not easy to get children to obey their parents and it is even more cumbersome to get adults to obey instructions. Obedience is a common word, but not a popular practice.
Obedience for many people means dependence, a symptom of an uncritical mind and a sacrifice of personal freedom. Thus, a person who obeys is considered to be childish and as someone who is under the manipulative influence of another. Christian, Jewish and Islamic Scriptures present Abraham as a Poster Child for obedience. God said to Abraham, “Take your son Isaac, your only one, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him up as a holocaust” (cf. Genesis 22:1-2). Why did God command Abraham to go and carry out such a cruel act against his own son? He did not only ask Abraham to sacrifice his son, but to offer him as a total burnt offering (holocaust). The Hebrew word that describes a holocaust is ‘ola,’ which is normally a burnt offering for atonement and thanksgiving (Leviticus 1). In the days of Abraham human sacrifice was common phenomenon among the Canaanites in whose land he lived.
God’s command was a test of Abraham’s faithfulness and a test of his obedience and love. Abraham passed the test by his willingness to execute the order from above. We can use various adjectives to describe the response of Abraham: complete, loyal, trustful, loving, or absolute obedience. However, when Abraham raised his knife to end the life of his son Isaac, God quickly intervened by providing a ram in place of Isaac. God’s intervention was meant to abolish the culture of human sacrifice and to promote the sanctity and culture of life. In addition, the story proves the sincere and unreserved obedience of Abraham and it shows the total surrender of Isaac who was willing to lay down his life to co-operate with the will of God. Many years later, God offered his own son for the salvation of many. According to St. Paul, God “Did not spare his own Son, but handed him over for us all (Romans 8:31).
Jesus had told his disciples several times, that he must go to Jerusalem, where he was to suffer and die, but they found it difficult to comprehend or believe him. When the time was getting closer for him to go to Jerusalem, the disciples were in a state of confusion and fear of the future gripped them. Jesus needed to comfort and convince them about God’s presence in his life. Therefore, the transfiguration of Jesus, which came just before his crucifixion, made it possible for the disciples to catch a glimpse of the glory that will follow his crucifixion and death. Obedience demands sacrifice and Jesus, the model of obedience obeyed even to the point of sacrificing his own life unto death on a cross (Philippians 2:11). He died on the cross to prove to his disciples there is no glory without the cross and there is no cross without obedience. The word obedience comes from the Latin word Obedire which means to listen to. If obedience means ‘to listen to’ it means the voice that came during the transfiguration of Jesus saying “This is my beloved Son, listen to him” is a call to obedience. Edwin Louis Cole, a prolific writer on the theme of men and religion says, “Obedience is an act of faith; disobedience is the result of unbelief.”
One of the aspects of religion that is very challenging is obedience. We clearly understand what obedience is, but we strongly dislike the cost of obedience. The writer Mark Twain says, “When I read the Bible, the parts that trouble me the most are not the ones I don’t understand, but the ones I understand.” Obedience is costly and difficult, but it has some values. Jesus says to his disciples, “If you love me, you will obey my commandment” (John 14:15). An ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus considers obedience as the mother of success and the wife of security” and St. Augustine considers obedience as the mother of all virtues.
There are times when obedience appears to be illogical and foolish, but the greatest demands for sincere obedience come in the most difficult circumstances of life: As when a general commands his army to march, if then the soldiers should stand upon terms, and refuse to go, except they have better clothes, their pay in hand, or the like, and then they will march; this would not show them as obedient, disciplined army; but if at the reading of their orders, they presently break up their quarters and set forth, though it be midnight when the command come, and they without money, clothes on their backs, leaving the whole care of themselves for these things to their general, and they only attend how they may best fulfil their commands, these may be said to march in obedience.
Obedience is not limited to listening, but also responding to the inner voice of the spirit that lies deep within us. Obedience, according to Daniel Groody, is not just about following our hearts, because following our hearts can lead us into individualism. This means obedience is not just about listening to ourselves but listening to the Gospel and listening to the community and to the people we serve.
There are many voices inside us begging for our obedience. We can mistake the wrong voice for the voice of God as in the case of those who perpetrate evil and kill in God’s name. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, a so-called religious sect claims to be carrying out God’s will and has killed thousands of people in the name of religion. Dangerous religious sects abound in our present world of confusion where religion is convoluted and where obedience of faith is misunderstood. Abraham is recognized as forefather of faith for Christians, Jews and Muslims, but yet the bitter and toxic hatred that exist between members of these religions are a scandal to the world. There is no way these religions can live peacefully together until they let go and let God, by putting God over and above political, cultural, and economic interests. We should “listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people (Psalm 85:8)
This period of Lent is a time to listen and it is a time to offer acceptable sacrifice to God, which is a contrite heart and a humble spirit (Psalm 51:17).
——————————————————— 2nd Sunday of Lent/ Genesis 22:1-2, 9a, 10-13, 15-18; Romans 8:31-34; Mark 9:2-10.