Category Archives: Obedience

Offering and Living Each Day

[My wise spiritual director pointed out that I have the intellectual prayer down pat, but need a lot of work on the “Prayer of the Heart,” the friendship, union and companionship with God that comes from a deepening of love.  Therefore, he has suggested a couple of texts, and set me to keeping a journal as I wander through them.  These are the fourteenth day’s thoughts.]

Devotional practices renders all my daily actions please to You, God. I am not where AL* was in his spiritual journey when he wrote this. Nor am I a 17th cent. priest. However, Jesus, help me glean what works for me and leave the rest right now, perhaps to be returned to later.

One of the most obvious things that he mentions that I, not surprisingly, neglect, is that while I offer to God my day when I rise, instead of “asking Him to help me by His grace” as AL suggests and my own sullied experience would commend, I go blithely on, thinking that I can do it all myself. Duh! Only with Your help can I do anything! So how would I have the chutzpah to think that in this monumental task of making sure that all my actions, words and thoughts this day are in conformity with Your will as well as being directed to You, I would be able to pull it off myself. Quite the epitome of pride, control and foolishness! Help me, God, to remember to get with the program and follow up such a wonderfully naive childlike offering with a hearty dose of humble pie, acknowledging from the get-go that I am totally and unequivocally incapable of doing this on my own and must always and continuously ask for and rely on Your help. Take my hand and show me how to do what You want me to do, just as You would a little child, so that I don’t hurt myself [through sin] and am able to do it at all.

The other thing that AL brings up which is timeless in its relevance is to resolve to live during this day as if it were the last day of my life. Not only could it be, if, in Your Divine Providence, You call me home today, but also in the general scheme of things, this is not only “the first day of the rest of my life,” it is also the only eternal Now that I have. As the saying goes, the past is no more, the future is yet to be, all I have is the Now. So in that sense, it not only should be lived “as if” it were the last day of my life, it is also the first as well as the only day of my life which is real, factual, and not a memory or imagination.It would and does therefore behoove me to live it as if it were the only day of my life.

But again, while I can resolve such, without Your constant help and direction, Your hand in mine, I am inevitably going to blow it in some form or other. Therefore, help me take a cue from You and Your mother and ask, seek, knock so that You may do unto me today according to Your will,…and then I will have achieved my resolve and offered a good day, in the same way a little child has “built” his own sandcastle or “put together” his truck. Amen. Alleluia!!!


*Alphonsus Liguori, How to Converse with God,Translated by Fr. L. X. Aubin, C.S.S.R. [Charlotte, Tan Books, 2005/13]

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Lesson in Obedience

[A Caveat: As with all my writings, I explain things in the way they make sense to me. In doing so, I often blindly wander into minefields of explanation into which scholars, saints and angels wisely do not venture. Therefore, take all I write not just with a grain of salt but with a whole mine of it. Please, please, please consider that I am just me, one very finite, very myopic, often very confused and mistaken man. I am often wrong. However, God guarantees the infallibility of the Catholic Church. Thus, if anything that I write contradicts or in any way conflicts with what the One, Holy, Apostolic Catholic Church has stated or defined, I profoundly apologize to my readers for misleading them, to the Church for contradicting our infallible Faith, Scripture and Tradition, and I beg God to have mercy on me, forgive me and write straight the crooked lines your wayward servant has written. I beg the forgiveness of all and ask for your prayers that I might have the guidance and inspiration of the Holy Spirit to see aright once again.]

It is encouraging to me to realize that even Jesus needed lessons in obedience. Not that He ever disobeyed God the Father. But that obedience came into conflict with obedience to his parents. He needed to grow in discernment and understanding, to mature just as we do, to be able to listen to the Father through His mother and step-father, or, as Luke puts it, He needed to go down to Nazareth and to be obedient to them in order to advance in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.[2] [Lk 2:52] Note that this obedience to His parents was necessary not just to advance in the opinion of men, but also, and perhaps especially, in the reality, the Truth that is God.

God had made it necessary for Jesus to be absorbed into, to become part of the fabric of his family, of the community at Nazareth, of the society around him. He could not hold himself aloof, to separate himself from the warp and woof of everyday life, to go off to study scripture with the priests in the temple, not even to go up to the mountain and pray alone, without realizing that His connection with the world, with His purpose, why He was there, with the Truth, the real reason why He went up to the mountain to pray…for His people back to Adam and forward to the end of time.

God speaks to us of this universal interrelationship through His creation, through the earth, through the everyday activities of earth. This is true of you, of me, even of the hermit and the cloistered. Their day and ours are strewn with ordinary routines, encounters with Him through our bodies, our activities, our emotions, our thoughts as we swim in the His Divine milieu of creation.

The lesson for me? As much as I may wish to be united to God and to the things of God here on earth, to go apart and have an eternal I-Thou love-in, God wants me to realize that He made me to praise, reverence and serve Him directly but also and continually through my every thought, word and action with which I interact with all around me; these repercuss in ever expanding waves washing over the whole world and over all around me.

[2] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner. Hereafter, NABRE.

Jn 6:29: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”

[Prologue: This is a continuation of the Meditations on John’s Gospel one verse at a time.  While there is much on which to meditate, these are the center around which all the others orbit.]

Why the double “answered and said”? Either answered or said alone would have been sufficient. Is there a reason behind the author’s use of a double verb? Perhaps it is similar to Jesus frequent use of “Amen, Amen,” a device to bring attention to the importance of the words? But in this instance, it is not Jesus who is doubling up his introduction to his statement. It is the author who is doubling the narrative words. But the author is under the influence of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So, was it the intent of the Holy Spirit to draw attention to the answer? This seems to be the case. This combination is frequently used to bring attention to the pivotal statements which follow stated or implied questions:[2]

  • Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. [Jn 2:19]
  • Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above. [Jn 3:3]
  • If you knew the gift of God and who is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him and he would have given you living water. [Jn 4:10]
  • What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later. [Jn 13:7]
  • I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. [Jn 14:6]

These are major teachings of Jesus on the resurrection, baptism into new life, living water, servant leadership, Himself as the Way to God, the Truth of God and the Life of God.

They are not only answers to questions. They are also statements of profound importance, not only as part of the narrative, not only to the specific individuals to who they were address when Jesus spoke them, but also, and perhaps equally, to all of us who hear them repeated years and centuries later.

This is the same here, Jesus defines the work of God that we are given: belief in Him. Here the crowd has just asked: “What can we do to accomplish the works of God?”[Jn 6:28] This is an eternal question. This was not only this crowd’s question. It is also our question today.

Jesus responds clearly, simply, precisely:“This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” This is His response then and now.

To put this in context, what had the crowd then been told they had to do to accomplish the works of God…keep the 613 Mitzvot or Commandments plus all the other “man’s laws” the Pharisees have imposed.[See Mk 7:2-15; Mt 15:1-20] No wonder Paul ranted and raved against the law: all who depend on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not persevere in doing all the things written in the book of the law”[Gal 3:10]…for the law does not depend on faith; rather, “the one who does these things will live by them.”[Gal 3:12]

Not keeping the law means sinning; Paul goes do far as to say: I did not know sin except through the lawwhen the commandment came, sin became alive; then I died, and the commandment that was for life turned out to be death for me. [Rom 7:7.9-10]

Paul realized, he experienced the undeniable fact that it is virtually impossible for anyone to perfectly keep all 613 Mitzvot and all the man’s laws. We are frail, weak, one slip and we fail, we sin. And that is the Catch 22; you have to keep them perfectly or you are cursed and die, but you can’t keep them perfectly, so inevitably you are cursed and die. The point being that it is impossible for sin-prone man to correctly fulfill all the things written in the book of the law.” Living, not being cursed, is based on doing and doing perfectly, an impossibility for imperfect man. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.[Rom 11:32]

But Jesus says: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.” With this one phrase, this one declaration, Jesus Christ ransomed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who hangs on a tree.”[Gal 3:13] The work of God, He says, is not the perfect keeping of the law; the law is to help us experience our absolute need for faith, for mercy, for forgiveness, for love. What you must do is believe in the one he sent,” believe in Me, Jesus said. Indeed, this is the reason why we have all the eye-witness reports of His miracles, that we might believe in Him: Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else, believe because of the works themselves. [Jn 14:11]

Why the one he sent? Why did not Jesus just refer back to himself as Me? This is the ultimate mystery of the relations of Jesus as the Son with His Father, a relationship based on obedience, grounded in humility, fueled by love. Jesus refers all glory, all power, all that He himself is able to accomplish to the Father.

As Jesus explained to Nicodemus: For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. [Jn 3:16-17] Here it is very clear: the work of God is the sending of the Son; my response is to believe in His Son that I might not perish but might have eternal life.

Belief in Jesus is our task on earth. No less, no more.[3]

  • It is a discerning task: See that you not be deceived; many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! [Lk 21:8]
  • It is a difficult task: If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. [Lk 9:23]
  • It is a dangerous task: But beware of people, for they will hand you over to courts and scourge you in their synagogues, and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake as a witness before them and the pagans. [Mt 10:17-18] The hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God.[Jn 16:2]
  • It is a deadly task: For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. [Lk 9:24]
  • It is a dedicated task: The way we came to know love was that he laid down his life for us; so we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.[1Jn 3:16]
  • It is a glorious task: Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life. [Mt 19:29]

So I have my marching orders, simple, clear, direct. The work of God is to believe in the one He sent, Jesus, as the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One. Such a message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God…For since in the wisdom of God the world did not come to know God through wisdom, it was the will of God through the foolishness of the proclamation to save those who have faith…We proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God….I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. [1Cor 1:18,21,23-24; 2:2] Everything else stems from that.


[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] Matthew also uses this device [Mt 17:11; 24:4].

[3] While “no less” is the task of a lifetime, “no more” is a very bold statement. It means that such a belief in the one he sent is active, not passive. It subsumes within itself all that Jesus taught, all that He lived, all that He suffered and died for, all that He rose for, all that is the message of Jesus, the message of the Kingdom, all that Jesus meant when he said: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. [Mt 28: 19-20a] It requires a total response, a commitment, a life. This “no more” reminds one of Augustine’s audacious statement: “Love and do what you will.” [Homily 7 on 1 John 4:4-12, Sect 8. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/170207.htm%5D

Patience: Constrained Obedience

A time between the Finding in the Temple and the Baptism of Jesus demonstrates the amazing importance God puts on Patience. We are given the Finding as a Divine hint [some hints need to be a lot more heavy handed than others or we don’t seem to get the point] that Jesus was well aware of his mission way back when He was twelve. But to the Father, awareness and readiness were not the same thing. After his confrontation with his parents, Jesus gets the message. This is not what His Father wants Him to do at this time. At this time, he is to be subject to his earthly father and mother. He is under the supervision of guardians and administrators until the date set by his father. [1] [Gal 4:2]

So he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.[Lk 2:51] This was to be his boot camp in obedience. It may not have seemed that way, but think about it. If you knew you were the Son of God and were sent here to do one thing and one thing only, save humankind, don’t you think you would be chafing at the bit to get to it. Ok, maybe not when you’re a teen, but at least when you’re 20. How slowly those hidden years would have seemed to drag by. And His boot camp training wasn’t just a couple of weeks or months. It wasn’t even a couple of years. Think 18 years in the backwaters of Galilee.

And given his propensity for knowing exactly what was going to happen to him at the end and his constant references to His “Hour,” Jesus understanding of His ultimate mission was not limited by His human perception nor even by time itself. Consider what you would be like if you were literally, not just figuratively, “waiting an eternity” for something to happen. They have to put me in a padded room before the first week was up. While we are wont to compare good patience to that of Job, it was a grain of sand when compared with what Jesus had to endure.

This was ultimate Obedience, Jesus total giving of control of his life over to His Father, total subordination of His will to that of His Father. And not to His Father directly. That would have been much easier. When one in confronted with the Almighty, the LORD Jehovah, the Creator of the Universe, even Jesus, now the God-Man would be able to humanly rationalize the efficacy of letting His Father run the show. But remember, this was obedience to His human parents, to creatures of His Father, if considered from a scientific perspective, so vastly inferior to Jesus that only on the human level could there be any comparison whatsoever, and even there, major inequalities. However, this is precisely the point. This obedience to Joseph and Mary is a true demonstration of His obedience to His Father.

Think of it, 18 years out of the only earthly life of the God-Man he’ll ever have. We are tempted to think of it as such a waste; would not more years in the public ministry been a better use of Jesus time, Jesus talents, than spending them schlepping boards and bricks for His father, building houses and repairing furniture in the backwater, hick town of Nazareth, helping his mother around the house?

For the majority of Jesus life, we have no record of what He did, Salvation History gone blank…or is it? We are told that, like his cousin, John, and his ancestor, Samuel [See 1Sam 2:26], Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man. [Lk 2:51-52] Good wine needs time to age. Good people do also. We know He was not yet truly wise at twelve; though He was listening to them and asking them questions and all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers, [Lk 2:46-47] the teachers thought they had a prodigy, not a Messiah, on their hands. Knowledge, even understanding and wisdom are not the same thing. With wisdom comes empathy, tact, insight not immediately evident in the facts and figures of knowledge. He may have been a Bar Mitzvah, a “Son of the Commandments,” a “man” in the Jewish community, but, in their eyes, the eyes of his family and the world, He was also still a boy, and his learning, his knowledge, needed the seasoning of life to become wisdom.

That’s where the the advancing in age, the blessing of time, the revelation of experience comes into play. Being fully man as well as God, like every other person who ever lived, only with maturation through the practical, everyday experience of family and community life, of business encounters and festival gatherings, in the drudgery of the day-to-day routine of work and life and play and prayer and friendships and love and heartaches and death and anger and sadness and acceptance and carrying on in spite of it all would wisdom and maturity be achieved.

Why favor before God and men. As his encounter with his parents in the Temple demonstrates, Jesus needed the maturity of adulthood to hone of his people skills from the abrasiveness of adolescence to the tact, temperance and perceptiveness of manhood. Only through the experience of living would He gain the human empathy and understanding needed to know them all, and…not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well. [Jn 2:24-25]

By using this knowledge as His Father directed Him, He did His Father’s will…always and everywhere in His “hidden life” until the day of his manifestation to Israel. [Lk 1:80]

Although we call it the “hidden life,” all that means is it didn’t rate minute by minute tweets, photo ops, headlines. He was not holding press conferences, nor issuing releases. He had no paparazzi, no followers. He was just the local carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon…and…his sisters. [Mk 6:3] His cloak of anonymity was so complete, His hidden identity so engrained in His neighbors, that when He later revealed His preaching and His power, He lacked so much credibility in his native place and among his own kin and in his own house,… he was not able to perform any mighty deed. [Mk 6:4-5]

But finally, His patience was rewarded: “In an acceptable time I heard you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.” Behold, now is a very acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. [Is 49:8; 2Cor 6:2] And, just as the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert [Lk 3:2], when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son [Gal 4:4] to be baptized. It was there His patience was rewarded. It was there the Father and Holy Spirit manifested their love of Him and their recognition and commendation of the perfect humble obedience He had shown throughout His hidden life: the heavens…[were] torn open and the Spirit, like a dove,….[descended] upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [Mk 1:10-11] The Spirit pins on the medal while the Father gives the speech.

Even then, They knew He was not quite ready. He needed his own personalized Camp Lejeune combat readiness training for the upcoming battles, and so at once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. [Mk 1:12-13]

Much of the rest of His life would be filled with this constant tension. On the one hand, He would cry out in frustration: I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! [Lk 12:49-50] On the other, even to His mother who, of all people, knew Him best, He would try to thwart her request for pity on the wedding party: “Woman, how does your concern affect me? My hour has not yet come.” [Jn 2:4] Of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [Mk 13:32]

This tension between wanting it over and waiting for His Father’s Hour haunts Him throughout his public ministry. Finally, on the occasion when Greek believers wish to speak to Jesus, He finally says: The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified…though he immediately clarifies that He recognizes that this glorification will have the appearance of exactly the opposite of what the world expects: unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit….Yet what should I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this purpose that I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” [Jn 12:23-25, 27-28a] The glorification would be of His Father, for He would demonstrate with His life that love of and obedience to His Father are the most important things in the universe, more important than life itself.[2]

There are more than one “hour” occurring simultaneously, Jesus Hour of His Father’s Glory and the hour, the time for the power of darkness. [Lk 22:53] These converge and culminate as Jesus hangs on the cross between heaven and earth. It is only, after gifting His own mother to John and to us and knowing that…from that hour the disciple took her into his home.[Jn 19:27]…, only then, aware that everything was now finished, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I thirst.” [Jn 19:28] For what did Jesus thirst: “the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.”[3] He needed to conclude the Passover Meal, for he said: I shall not drink again the fruit of the vine until the day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. Now was the Kingdom of God established on earth for all eternity….When Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is finished. And bowing his head, he handed over the spirit.” [Jn 19:30]

The patience obedience had been completed, His Father’s will had been fulfilled, His Father was glorified by His ultimate sacrifice of Jesus of Himself, His life, of everything as testimony to His Father as His God, His all, His Everything.

Et tu, Brute? And what of me? To what part of this magnificent panorama of divinely human patience can I aspire to, hope to emulate. Me, in my timidity, my weakness, my humanness, my drive to control, my intolerance of expectation, my demand for immediacy, my today-and-now impatience. On the contrary, I am the poster child of impatient disobedience. Can I change? Indeed, I am the most pitiable…of all. [1 Cor 15:19] ““Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them [and me and you] and said, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” [Mt 19:25-26]

Patience! We’ll get there, with God’s help. Amen. Alleluia!!!

[1] Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

[2] A truth revalidated again and again over the centuries by the blood of martyrs, the life long vows of religious, the lives of the saints.

[3] Scott Hahn, The Fourth Cup, The Sacrament of the Eucharist, http://zuserver2.star.ucl.ac.uk/~vgg/rc/aplgtc/hahn/m4/4cp.html