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March 25, 2018 - Obedience is Salvation

Palm Sunday of the Lord's Passion

Scripture Readings

We are entering Holy Week. We are doing so as March Madness reaches it climax. Holy Week is the climax of the Church’s liturgical year. What shall we do? Holy Week or March Madness? Some might be asking the wrong question - “How can I squeeze Holy Week into March Madness? Do it the other way around, people of God! How can we squeeze March Madness into Holy Week? In reality, these two events need not be in competition. Holy Week is about the events of our salvation. March Madness is pure entertainment. We know, don’t we not, that March Madness will not save us! Salvation is at the foot of the cross!  

Three points for us to reflect upon as we enter Holy Week amidst March Madness. My three points revolves around the obedience of Christ and its implications for us.  

  1. Focus on Obedience. Our Passion reading this year is from Mark’s gospel. As the first gospel to be written Mark has one of the most quoted scripture, “Not what I will but what you will.” The full quote goes: "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you. Take this cup away from me, but not what I will but what you will.” Mark stress is on the obedience of Jesus. This obedience is further emphasized in today second reading. Paul says, ‘He [Jesus] emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). I am not proposing the practical implication here. I merely want to reflect on the fact that Jesus, though he was God, was obedient. How hard it is to be obedient? 
  1. Obedience has Implications. I was in LA last week to give two presentations at the Religious Education Congress. One of my talks focused on the Sacrament of Reconciliation. One of my main points was that the even the most private sin has communal implications. For example, the first man and woman committed a personal sin by their disobedience to God. But look at the impact that it had on the rest of humanity. That original sin messed all of us up. Similarly, when we sin, it affects God, others, ourselves and our world beyond our imagination. Unlike the first man and woman, Christ became obedient. His obedience of Christ on the cross works in the opposite direction. Just as the disobedience of the first man and woman brought destruction, the obedience of Jesus would bring restoration. Perhaps this tells us how important Jesus obedience was. Our destiny hinged on his obedience. No wonder then that the early church made Jesus’ obedience into a hymn which it prayed often. Today, let us complete this hymn in our worship. The hymn goes, “… He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Because of this… at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” 
  1. Holy Week & Obedience. The disobedience of the first and woman and its implications, and the obedience of Christ and its implications should make us reflect on our own obedience to God. First, what does obedience mean? For us, I believe this means that our lives confirm to the Gospel. Especially, the suffering, crucifixion, and death of Jesus that we heard in the passion reading, holds many messages for us. It says to us that love always wins; it says that God’s love is unconditional; it says that because of Christ we must love others unconditionally, it says that violence is never the answer; it asks us to put our weapon down; it says that forgiveness is the key to reconciliation; it says that self-sacrifice is not a sign of weakness; it says that God is always on the side of the poor. Obedience means that we fashion our values, priorities, preferences and choices on the life, message, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Second, we must realize that just like the obedience of Christ and the disobedience of the first man and woman had cosmic implications for the good or bad, our obedience and disobedience has wider implications. Whether we are obedient to Christ or not has cosmic implications. I am suggesting that the obedience of Christ does not go in vain this Holy Week in your life and mine. March Madness or not, this Holy Week let us walk with Jesus as he became obedient to God unto death for our salvation. 

At this Eucharist let every knee bend at the name of Jesus, and and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. 

- Fr. Satish Joseph