St Paul writes, "The mystery of Jesus Christ...is now disclosed...to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith." (Rom 16:25-26)
It can take time to get over the word "obedience". For a long time I found our Lord's pairing of love and keep my commandments a very difficult thing. I was reluctant to give up my autonomy. I was of course far too wrapped up in myself and had far too high an opinion of my abilities. Why should I give up control to be odedient? At this point I am sure those of my father's generation would say something like, what we need is to bring back 'national service'. Men of his generation were drafted into the armed services for some years after the second world war. I imagine they learnt obedience quickly. For many of us it takes much longer, and in today's modern world 'obedience' is a dirty word so perhaps we should not be surprised if it is ignored.
In our gospel today our Lord directs us to the connection between love and obedience, and it is clear that this is no sentimental notion of love. It is not love that is about feelings; about how I am. It is rather love that conquers death because of obedience unto death. This is the love referred to in our opening hymn at the Abbey's mass today:
Love's redeeming work is done;
fought the fight, the battle won:
Lo, our Sun's eclipse is o'er!
Lo, he sets in blood no more!
What I struggled with over obedience was not just a dislike of obedience, but an underlying erroneous understanding of who I was. I had a vain optimism about human character. I did not believe I was fallen. I did not believe I needed redeeming. I did not need to give up my autonomy, my independant and self-centred life. Outwardly I worshipped Christ each Sunday at church, but inwardly I really didn't believe I needed a Saviour.
We all need to get over ourselves, and embrace obedience in the ordinary events of life. We need to do this because in persevering in humble obedience we discipline our disorderly desires that would take us from our risen Saviour. These fallen desires draw us from the obedience of faith in God, to the self. Obedience is how we say "yes" to Love's redeeming work, and "no" to self-centredness.
This obedience is lived out in all sorts of ways. It begins with our attending to the Word of God, especially at mass, and how this is applied to us through our parish priest's homily and counsel, and the particular circumstances of life in which we live. We place our trust in God's providence every time we act obediently. And if we do not pull back when it becomes costly, our obedience unites us with Christ 'who became obedient unto death'.
Deacon Ian Hellyer
PS The most notable thing at the pond today was "oh look at all the newts."