Fr. Paul's Homily
In 1924 a research project occurred entitled the Middletown Study was held to determine what traits were most important in rearing children. Asking parents from a typical mid-size America town, three qualities were identified: loyalty to church, strict obedience and good manners. The least chosen qualities were independence, tolerance and social-mindedness. In 1978 the study was repeated in the same town. The results? Exactly the opposite!! In 1978 the top qualities listed by parents were independence, tolerance and social-mindedness, while the least mentioned qualities were loyalty to church, strict obedience and good manners!!
It is not surprising that in a society where “Do your own thing” is the mantra, that obedience would be suspect. Since the 1960s, we have lost a lot confidence in our institutions, resulting in lack of trust, which results in a lack of obedience. Yet, in our second reading today we hear that “Jesus was obedient to the Father, even unto death on the cross.” Wow!! Can I be that obedient in today’s society? Can I have the necessary trust to be truly obedient? And can I see that obedience is not less important as I grow older, but more important?
Obedience flows from trust. Jesus had total trust in his heavenly Father, so he could be obedient, even when that obedience led to the cross. All obedience requires trust, but total obedience is only a “good” when there is a profound love relationship present. If someone is going to ask me to be obedient to them, I have to trust that they care about me and that they have an understanding that might go beyond my own.
Obedience also grows out of having a vital mission. When you are driven by a mission or great purpose, obedience comes naturally. I am always impressed with the practice discipline of a star athlete. Pick any sport, and the best are the ones who practice the longest: they shoot 500 foul shots after each practice; they hit 2,000 practice balls from the tee; they run 40 sprints up and down the bleachers. If you are successful at anything, than you have come to know the value of obedience…obedience to what you hold as important.
Obedience is needed when doing good becomes difficult. We all can see the goodness in caring for a sick relative, but it can become very difficult when it stretches into days, weeks and months. Or, it is a blessing to have a good attitude when one has chronic pain, yet this becomes very difficult when it continues day after day.
Today, as we heard the Passion of our Lord Jesus’ Christ, we heard the story of the raw humanity of Jesus. Gone is his power to control all; we see a man who suffered physical and mental pain. We see a man who cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Today we see our brother Jesus in pain. He is living out his obedience to his heavenly Father by staying faithful, even to the cross.
What motivated Jesus? He had a mission for his life and Jesus trusted. These two factors made it possible for Jesus to endure the wood of the cross. I invite us this week to reflect upon the amazing obedience of Christ and our own call to obedience. Join us for Holy Thursday Mass and the Good Friday Service. Let us prepare ourselves for Easter by humbly accepting obedience as part of the journey of faith that, indeed, leads to new life!