Thursday, September 4, 2008

Obedience

At the beginning of the fifth chapter of St. John's Gospel, Jesus heals a crippled man at the pool of Bethesda. He heals him on the Sabbath and tells the man to take up his mat and walk. Upon seeing the man carrying his mat, which was a direct violation of strict Sabbath observance, some Pharisees called him on it by asking him why he was carrying his mat on the Sabbath. He tells them that the one who healed him told him to carry it. Why would Jesus tell to him to do that? It doesn't matter, the man himself knew nothing except what Jesus told him. He was obedient to what Jesus told him despite the fact that he did not understand.

By the time the man told the Pharisees who had healed him "Jesus had slipped away" (v. 13).

Later, Jesus saw the man "in the temple area said to him, 'Look, you are well; do not sin any more, so that nothing worse may happen to you'" (v. 14). It is important to note that Jesus is not threatening the man. He is not saying to him that if he sins he will once again be unable to walk, or be afflicted by some worse physical ailment. No, Jesus is saying that sin results in the worst thing happening to us, the loss of ourselves, the abandonment of our I to that which does not ultimately satisfy us.

We avoid sinning by following Jesus, by being obedient to Him, even when we do not fully understand why he is asking something of us. What Jesus asks of us is nothing less than what the church teaches. Of course, this obedience, this adherence, is only possible once we have experienced an event that becomes an encounter, once we know who Jesus is: the Incarnation of God, who is love. In last Sunday's Gospel, taken from St. Matthew, Jesus tells us, "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matt. 16,24). Of course, Peter and the other eleven did not know what he was talking about, they did not comprehend, but neither did they leave, they remained, they adhered. This forces a question: Did the cross make sense to Jesus when it became clear to Him that it was what the Father asked of him?

1 comment:

  1. I think today's gospel reading (Luke 5:1-11) gives us a great example of obedience. Simon fishes through the night with no catch to speak of, and yet when Jesus tells him to set out into deep waters and try again, he does so immediately.

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