Obedience leads to Life

Women at the empty tomb, by Fra Angelico (1437–1446)
Women at the empty tomb, by Fra Angelico (1437–1446) [image: Wikipedia Commons]
Happy Easter! Jesus Christ conquered Death by his death and resurrection.

Easter is such a momentous event to which the entire Creation has been pointing to since the Fall [1]. Since then, the direction of motion of the Universe is towards the fulfillment of the Kingdom of Heaven. In all these, thanks be to God’s Wisdom, God has placed many signs—outward and physical signs—for human beings as spiritual creatures with bodily existence. Indeed, while human beings are made in the likeness of the Creator, the same Man is endowed with a body with physical senses that has the power to wield (or severe) this Universe’s link to its Creator. In this sense, Man is the Priest of the Universe that ministers the whole creation and is expected to offer it back to God as a sign of obedience to the original calling to work in the Garden [2].

Easter is the most important event in Christendom that almost all Christian ecclesial communities and churches (including those nearest to it) celebrate it. However, Easter is only (but nevertheless essential) a sign. In God’s wisdom, He willed that the expression of his Faithfulness and Love be visible to the human beings [3]. Indeed, as human beings we tend to look for the sign of every substance and rightly so because we are both body and soul, and so is love. Love, like any gift, has both form and matter—the intent (typically in the form of words) and the material gift itself. Thus, while we celebrate the sign of God’s love and faithfulness, we must also strive to obtain the obedience that led to the Resurrection.

The long scriptural readings and the Responsorial Psalms are historical account (read: “real historical events”) of the entire Salvation History since the Fall. Truly [4], holy obedience must be center of the Gospel: an obedience rooted in Love, initiated by Faith and sustained by Hope. All these can be found in that obedience to the Will of the Father unto death, even death on the Cross [5]. The Fall of Man is initiated by disobedience and ignorance of the roles (e.g. Adam should have taken responsibility of Eve being beguiled by Satan without him by her side). The Promise is made manifest to persons and peoples of obedience. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his “only son” Isaac is the sign of that his obedience that earned him to be “righteous”. Noah’s obedience earned salvation for him, his family and the entire Creation. Israel under the leadership of Moses also earned salvation from the bondage of slavery through obedience (though not that consistent such as their grumbles in the Desert). Same story can be gleaned from David and the Kingdom of Israel.

Besides the heroes of the Former Covenant (Old Testament), we have the penultimate Holy Obedience in the person of Our Lady the Virgin Mary who said her Fiat at the Annunciation [6]. Her obedience even caused her to say “how can this be since I am a virgin”,  out of the fear of being in the wrong direction of vocation [7]. In the end, she said “be it done … according to your word.” This is similar to the ultimate obedience of Christ in his Life, Passion and Death, expressed succinctly during his prayer at Gethsemane, “not my will but yours be done.” Out of the hope of God’s power and faithfulness, all holy people are willing to undergo any suffering, even death, since God will ultimately give life to all who believe and receive the grace [8]. Just as Abraham believed that Isaac will be given back to him even after his sacrifice [9], all Christians believe that whatever is given to God generously will be returned seven and seventy seven fold.

Holy obedience to the Will of the Father is the essential requirement for holiness and sainthood. However, we must not take this lightly and settle with hypothetical faith and belief. Our obedience must take actions as our God and Lord and Founder Jesus Christ has said [10] about the Way, “he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life and there is no other [11].

In summary, Easter is the material sign of salvation and obedience is its substance.

[1] Romans 8:22,23 “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.” (NASB)

[2] cf. Genesis 2:15. There are many translations for this verse. There are at least two important point we can glean from here: (a) Man is created to work in God’s Vineyard / Kingdom; and (2) Man acts as a priest connecting the entire creation to the Creator by offering it back. The first point is obvious. The second is a theological interpretation of the original word used (see St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Lesson 2 on Creation, Fall and Promise) being identical to those used in priestly services (“abodah” and “shamar”).

[3] It is surmised by theologians that this could be the reason for the fall of the most glorious angels in Heaven, Lucifer (light bearer). Lucifer became Satan because of his objection to God’s Incarnation and abasement down to the level of creatures, that of Man. Good discussion made by Dr. Taylor Marshall in his podcast.

[4] Thanks to the hint of a friend Mikki Fudolig, this was made clear to the author. Perhaps there are writings of the Fathers of the Church on this. My take is that the Church has been concentrating on obedience as the center of love, and the highlight on the Easter as sign is only recent (“highlight” or emphasis is used since the sign is also important).

[5] see Philippians 2:8

[6] The Catholic faithful remind themselves of this obedience in the daily Angeluprayer.

[7] Her original vocation is being the Virgin of the Temple. They are vowed not to have “relations with man” for their entire life. Her betrothal to St. Joseph is a legal means to obtain protection from the juridical and cultural points of view as unmarried women such as widows lives with great difficulties in their times.

[8] cf. John 11:24: “Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”” (NASB)

[9] See Genesis 22. When Abraham said “we will come back to you” [v.5], he refers to himself and the boy after his supposed sacrifice.

[10] We see this from several passages such as in Luke 9:23, Mark 8:34, Luke 14:27, Matthew 10:38 and many others. To “deny oneself” is to say “not my will but yours be done” and “let it be done unto me according to your word.”

[11] John 14:6 where Jesus said “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” C.f. Hebrews 10:20, Ephesians 2:18, Romans 5:2, John 1:17, 10:9 and many others.


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