Love & Obedience
Because we have a high regard for virtue, we often try to appear virtuous, even when we don’t end up in being virtuous. We want to look good, if not in God’s eyes, at least in our own estimation or in the eyes of those who see us. We tend to be like the Pharisees who were outwardly religious, scrupulous about observing the smallest prescriptions of the law and intent on avoiding those who are less religiously inclined. We can be hypocrites, proud, arrogant, judgmental and convinced of our utter superiority over others in terms of personal worth. For the Pharisees, the average Jew was miserably ignorant of the law, a sinner and thus unworthy of God. So when John the Baptist came, the Pharisees went through the motions of his ritual of purification. But they were not really repentant, because they did not see themselves as sinners. Real sinners like the tax collectors and prostitutes took John seriously and mended their ways.
As indicated in the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes realized that the parable of the two sons was about them. It was about their disobedience. It is about obedience that goes beyond mere observance of the law by external actions. It is also about repentance. The second son thought better of his refusal to obey and changed his mind and did his father’s will.
The lesson of the parable is that we have to listen to God’s word, take it into our hearts and make it our own and be obedient. Obedience means submission of mind and will that can be painful. St Paul suggests to us where the source of obedience is: Jesus who lowered Himself to our human condition, took on the form of a slave, always obedient to His father, submitted to death on the cross, dying like a common criminal. Jesus came to our world to do the will of His Father with an immense, immeasurable love. It was this love in His heart that inspired Him become human, suffered and died for all of us.
Indeed, obedience is transfused and sustained by love. Loving obedience enables us to obey even when it is difficult. And this love is communicated to us as we celebrate the Eucharist where Christ is obedient to His Father even unto death on the cross. Repentant and obedient to God’s word, we offer ourselves to God at the Offertory and receive Him in Holy Communion to sustain us to love and serve Him in our daily lives.