Obedience? Being subservient, listening, or standing under God


Father Francisco Nahoi gave the homily at the Sunday Mass at the Cathedral in Reno Nevada for the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time. His homily was on obedience. Father began his homily by talking about the American problem with obedience. He pointed out that we suffered the Irish Potato famine, the revolutions of 19th Century Europe, the slavery of the south, and the sweatshops of the north.

OK, we suffered. Now what?

Feeling abuse inflicted upon us, we are less likely to be obedient in the sense we use the term. We have a problem when we read of Jesus, being obedient to death, death on the cross.

Greek has two words for “Obedient.” The first concept is ὑποτάσσω,to stand under or support someone. Corporations have hierarchies. Being second is command is not degradation. The second translates the Hebrew, “שְׁמַע” to listen, “ὑπακούω.” When Americans think of obedience, we think of being subservient, losing dignity, being an under servant. When St. Paul discusses Jesus’ obedience in the second reading, it is, “שְׁמַע” or “ὑπακούω.” Jesus listens to his father. He is the soldier who loses his life for others, and in the process gains honor.

The classic example of obedience is the escape from Egypt. Ephesians 6:1 says, “Τὰ τέκνα, ὑπακούετε τοῖς γονεῦσιν ὑμῶν ἐν κυρίῳ, τοῦτο γάρ ἐστιν δίκαιον.” “Children, listen to your parents in Kyrie, for this is charitable.” The exodus story presents parents who were slaves in Egypt. They made the Golden Calf. God did not deem them worthy to enter the Promised Land. God told the children to honor these parents in The Ten Commandments, the parents St. Paul tells us to listen to.

If a parent tells their children to get drunk, or use drugs, is following these parent’s instructions, honoring them? Are children taking actions to prevent parents from hurting themselves honoring them? The command is to listen, not do whatever they say.

Father pointed out, when we are insecure, we grasp for control. The second reading states, “Have in you the same attitude that is in Christ, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped.” Jesus does not grasp. Jesus does not try to get control. Jesus does not follow the Protestant Work Ethic, the ethic of rugged individualism.

Father Francisco ended his homily with a short discussion of Lexio Devina. The first step in Lexio Devinais Lectio, listening to all that it has to say. Continuing the listening process, we chew on the words, listening for all the words have to say. We pray about what we are reading, keeping in mind that prayer is a reflexive verb, sitting down with God, and deciding how to implement what we read in our lives.

The last part is contemplation, going to the mountain, Mount Horeb and reliving the exodus in present time. We go to the transfiguration and relive the Passion of Jesus Christ, again, for the first time. We do this through the Eucharist, experiencing the Physical Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Host.

People who undergo near-death experiences report feeling God with a sense of tranquility giving complete rest. Coming back to earth, they no longer feel the need to be in control. Going to the mountain is our near-death experience. We let go and we let God.

We can “Have the encouragement in Christ, the solace in love, to complete the joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing.” Instead of clinging for control and doing God’s job, or our neighbor’s job, we can be an integral part of community, and just do our job, in love.

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