Obedience is freedom

GOD’S WORD TODAY - Ruben M. Tanseco S.J. - The Philippine Star

What spiritual wisdom is expressed in the very first reading of today’s Holy Mass: “If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you. . . . Before man are life and death, good and evil, whichever he chooses shall be given him.” (Sir. 15:15,17). The spiritual author W.Maestri challenges us, his readers, as follows: “Yet, we must ask ourselves whether we have become as free with our love, resources, time, and service. If not, our freedom is self-serving, which runs counter to the example of Jesus who served the ‘other’. . . . Jesus was the freest of men. Yet he never tires in saying that he came to do the will of his father. Jesus’ freedom is grounded in obedience to the Father’s will. This is a wisdom much in need today.” (Grace Upon Grace, p.65).

Yes! Indeed! Today’s culture all over the world, including our own, is predominantly narcissistic. For so many people, one’s ego becomes one’s god, with a small “g.” One’s ego can then be our greatest enemy in not following God with a capital “G.” For so many people, the letter of the law becomes stronger than the spirit of the law. Even among our fellow-Catholics here in our country, so many go regularly to Sunday mass and follow other church rules, but so many of them are unfaithful to their spouses, and others are guilty of corruption in their jobs.

Here was a man in his forties, married for 15 years, with two children and a loving, dedicated wife. Moreover, he had a successful business that was earning very well. But underneath all this, he was having a relationship with another woman, which was unknown to his wife and children. He wanted to end the relationship, but somehow, he was not able to, for he really loved the other woman, just as he loved his wife. Moreover, he knew in his heart that the other woman would be heart-broken if they ended the relationship. At the beginning of the Lenten-Season that year, a friend of his invited him to join an Ignatian retreat of eight days in a far-away retreat house. Somehow, he felt God’s call to do it, so he went through the eight-day retreat with his friend.

He went through no less than a spiritual conversion – the first time in his life. It was so liberating that after the retreat, during which time he went through a process of discernment, he was finally able to break the relationship with the other woman. Moreover, he even helped the other woman go through a spiritual conversion process herself, and they finally separated with each one experiencing inner peace. No less than a miracle! Each one of them experienced freedom through obedience. Each one did what was God’s will for one’s self. Such was God’s love for each one of them.

It is of utmost importance that we become aware of our ego as our greatest enemy in following God’s will. Freedom from our ego can be our greatest instrument in being obedient to God’s commandment of love. God the Father exemplified this to us through God the Son. Jesus Christ came to be one among us and became our human role model in obeying God’s will of love. This led the human Christ to be free from his ego and became attached to God the Father and God the Holy Spirit in loving all of creation.

In our own lives, Christ showed us the way of freely loving God and neighbor, not only through his preaching, but more importantly, through his life and actions. Early in his adult life, he was led by the Holy Spirit to the desert where he fasted for no less than forty days and forty nights. At the end of that period, human that he was, the devil tempted him no less than three times. He strongly said No! to each temptation, and said at the end: “The Lord your God, shall you worship and him alone shall you serve.” (Mt. 4:10).

Later on, he called his first disciples, went around all of Galilee, proclaimed the gospel of the kingdom, and cured those who were sick with different diseases. As our current Pope Francis would remind us, we as Christ’s disciples must live our lives with mercy and compassion. This was how the human Christ lived his. And the three Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke repeated what Christ taught and lived as God’s greatest commandment for us all: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:37-40; Mk. 12:28-34; Lk. 10:25-28). When everything is said and done, love is the answer.

The Time Magazine last January 30, 2017 carried a one-page article by Ann Patchet entitled: “The President Who Loved.” She was referring to President Obama who recently stepped down from office after eight years. Let me end by quoting her: “For eight years, President Obama gave the American people the example of his careful consideration, compassion, rigorous intelligence, and, wonder of wonders, love. Love was not something I would have previously thought to look for in a President, but now I’m wondering how I’ll do without it. . . . There was love in the constant celebration of the achievement of others, in the President’s willingness to shine the klieg light of his attention onto veterans, scientists, artists, and educators. He loves books! And Obama gave more Presidential Medals of Freedom than any other President, saving the last one for his Vice-President, Joe Biden, whom he called ‘my brother’ at the surprise ceremony. Biden, like the rest of us watching, was in tears.” God of Love, Amen.


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