2nd Sunday of Lent

Obedience.

It comes from the word obey; to comply with or follow the commands, restrictions, wishes, or instructions of someone in authority.  In the first reading today we have the classic example of obedience.  The Lord tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son.  Without questioning, Abraham heads off to the mountain with Isaac, his son.  He is fully prepared to do as the Lord asks.

The Gospel is the story of the Transfiguration, one we’re very familiar with.  In Mark’s telling of the story the voice of God says to Peter, James, and John: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.”  Then, on the way down the mountain, Jesus tells the Apostles not to talk about what they’ve just seen until He has risen from the dead.  Mark tells us “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what rising from the dead meant.”  That’s what we call obedience.

 

God the Father told the disciples to listen to His son and that’s what they did.  They didn’t know why.  They didn’t understand what “rising from the dead” meant.  They didn’t question Jesus.  They just did what He told them to do.

You and I are also called to do what Jesus tells us.  Unfortunately our society encourages us to do just the opposite.  People have either forgotten what Jesus told us, or they just don’t care.

 

Our Church has been all over the news lately.  The big national story is the Health and Human Services mandate that Catholic employers provide free contraception to their employers.  Locally, the Church is under fire for firing a Catholic school teacher for marrying his male lover.  I don’t want to talk about either of those stories today, but let’s look at them in the context of obedience.

 

Our Church along with many others teaches that artificial birth control is a sin.  It’s not a suggestion.  It’s not something that you might want to avoid.  It’s a sin.  That doesn’t mean you can’t do it. But, according to our US Constitution, the Church shouldn’t have to pay for you, or anyone else, to do it.

 

But this whole HHS mandate thing isn’t about birth control.  It’s about religious freedom and it’s about obedience.  The “Letters to the Editor” section of today’s (yesterday’s) paper was full of comments on this issue.  Here’s what one person wrote:  “I am Catholic and do not believe the Department of Health and Human Services contraception mandate is an assault on religious freedom and conscience; it is about Church power and control.”

 

This whole issue will be resolved one way or the other and we’ll deal with it when it is.  We’ve been dealing with the consequences of Roe vs. Wade for a long time.  The HHS mandate, if it stands, will not destroy the Church.  The Church has survived much worse.

 

What drives me crazy are people who don’t take the time to learn the truth but still want to express their very-public opinion anyway.  Let’s be clear.  The Church doesn’t control anybody.  She doesn’t control you.  She doesn’t control me.  The Church teaches.  Remember when Jesus said to the Apostles “Whoever hears you, hears me.”  (Luke 10:16)

 

The Church teaches on behalf of Jesus.  Whether you listen or not is up to you.  Through its teaching authority the Church passes along to us the will of God.  When we go along it’s called “obedience”.

 

But what about free will.  God gave us free will and a conscience.  He never makes us do anything.  Adam and Eve had free will.  God had given them two commandments; only two.  “Be fruitful and multiply” and “don’t eat the apple”.  So, being human and having free will, what did they do?  They ate the apple!  Two rules!  Just two rules and they could only manage to obey one of them.  They were 50% obedient and the rest is history.

 

We have a duty to God and to ourselves to form our conscience. The best way to do that is to live according to the teachings of Jesus and His Church.  With the Internet available to just about everybody there’s no excuse for not knowing Church teaching.  There’s no excuse for not being obedient.  “THIS IS MY SON, LISTEN TO HIM!”  There’s really no excuse for making a fool out of yourself by starting a letter to the editor “I am Catholic” then proceeding to criticize Church teaching. A logical person would read this guy’s letter and wonder why he doesn’t just leave the Church. Our obedience (or disobedience) doesn’t add up to Church control

 

Look at it this way.  When we’re little our parents pretty much control our lives.  They tell us what to do and when to do it.  They feed us and dress us and don’t give us a whole lot of choices.  Why do they do that?  Are they control freaks or are they trying to protect us, keep us safe, and teach us right from wrong.

 

Gradually, as we get older and smarter, they start to give us more choices.  We can decide what we want to eat (up to a point).  We start to pick out our own clothes.  And we get more freedom.  Anyone who ever had a teenager in their family knows that we all reach a point where we reject what we think of as control and start bending the rules to see how much we can get away with.  Hopefully, as parents, we’ve helped form the kid’s conscience so they know right from wrong.

 

When my kids were little I told them not to play with matches.  It wasn’t me (a large person) trying to control them (small people), it was me trying to save their lives.  They’re all grown ups now, they’ve not set themselves on fire (that I know of), and I don’t think any of them play with matches.  Clearly the result of my superior parenting skills.

 

It’s the same with the Church.  She teaches us right from wrong.  She helps us form our conscience.  But, it’s up to us to decide what we’re going to believe, what we’re going to do.  We can choose to be obedient, as Abraham was obedient; as the Apostles were obedient.  Or, we can be disobedient like Adam and Eve and get thrown out of the Garden.  It’s up to us.

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