THE TRANSFORMING POWER OF OBEDIENCE Reflection for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) Rev. Fr. Boniface Nkem Anusiem Ph.D.

If someone asked you to mention just one thing you think God needs from everything He created, both humans and other creatures, what would you say? The answer is obedience. Yes, even the winds and the seas obey God (Matt. 8:27), and all creation praise the Lord, which is an act of obedience (Psalm 148).

We prefer to relate closely with those who obey us and refrain from the people who don’t. A more significant reason many people like to keep dogs as pets is that they are more obedient and friendly than other domestic animals.

Now, if God’s highest demand from us is obedience, it means that disobedience is the last thing He would wish to get from us. But unfortunately, disobedience has been the destructive line in our relationship with God, starting from the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden. Our struggle with disobedience has not ended.

Disobedience is the unwillingness to submit to the direction of divine authority. We see a typical instance when God asked Saul to destroy the Amalekites, both human and animals, but the king was unwilling to destroy everything and spared the king Agag and the best of the animals and other good things (1 Samuel 15:9).

The Benefits of Obedience to the Law

In the Book of Deuteronomy (4:1-2,6-8), we see Moses giving the people of Israel instructions from God as they prepare to enter the promised land. In the body of the narrative, we see the word “observe” mentioned several times. 

To observe in this context does not mean watching but acting; in fact, it means following a defined path, in other words, to obey. We see the correlation between observance and obedience clearer in the Book of Joshua (1:7), where God admonished Joshua to be careful to obey (or observe) all the laws that Moses gave to him, not turning away to the right or the left.

When we are asked to obey certain rules and regulations, we often think that they would make us lose our freedom of will. On the contrary, the purpose of any rule is first to assist the person who observes the rule. For instance, the seatbelt rule is primarily for the safety of the driver and passengers. 

Obedience gives life: Every instance of obedience is a step towards life, just as disobedience opens the door to death in the spiritual sense. Recall that God asked Adam to freely eat the trees in the garden except for the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And God added, “the day you shall eat of it, you shall die” (Genesis 2:16-17). God’s statement here means that disobedience would bring death which means also means disconnection from God. 

Obedience gives access: We gain divine access when we are obedient. For example, in the passage, Moses asked the people to observe the statutes and decrees to live and enter in and take possession of the land that the Lord God is giving to them.

Obedience precedes divine access and nearness. Recall that the generation that disobeyed God during the journey could not enter the promised land, including Moses (Deuteronomy 32:51–52). The implication for us here is that heaven is only accessible through obedience.

Obedience shows wisdom: Wisdom belongs to the realm of the divine, and it has to do with the ability to make the right choice in the face of contending options. The Book of Job (28:28) says that the fear of the Lord is wisdom and to depart from evil is understanding.

In the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses challenged the people to give evidence of their wisdom by choosing the careful observance of the commandments. The quick lesson here is that we become foolish when we choose to disobey God.

Moving Forward: Becoming Action-minded Christians

The world is divided into two foregrounds with “sayers” on the one hand and “doers” on the other. Our Lord Jesus Christ weighs in on this distinction in the Gospel of Mark (7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23) while addressing the Pharisees and some Scribes who faulted his disciples for eating with unwashed hands against the tradition of the elders.

Our Lord Jesus replies to the faultfinders by pointing out the words of the prophet Isaiah that decried how the people honor God with their lips but their hears are from Him. They also worship in vain by teaching human precepts as doctrines (Isaiah 29:13). 

Do we not often neglect our obedience to the basic commandments of God while occupying ourselves with some frivolous religious dramas that do not add an inch to our spiritual growth and advancement. 

God is not interested in how physically clean your hands are, as He is interested in how clean your heart is. Did David not say that the one that would climb the mountain of the Lord should have not just clean hands but also a pure heart (Psalm 24:4).

There would be the need for us to make our Christian life intentional and action-minded. In the letter of St. James (1:17-18, 21b-22, 27), we get some helpful aids. First, the epistle challenges us to welcome the saving word of God that is planted in us with unquestioning humility. Furthermore, and more importantly, St. James challenges us to be doers of the word and not just hearers, thereby deluding ourselves. 

As we receive the word of God today, we treasure it in our hearts, and may we come to a more renewed commitment towards the careful obedience to the divine directives that would lead us to eternal life.

God bless you, and have a fruitful week ahead.

Fr. Bonnie.

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