Homilette for Monday, January 19, 2009

Monday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time

(Hebrews 5:1-10; Mark 2:18-22)

Humans learn obedience when they have to do something that is hard. If a superior sends a young religious to an elite school where students learn quickly and the community has a gourmet cook, she will have no difficulty accepting the assignment. But if the superior sends her to Africa where children do not have books much less computers and the staple food is yam not ham, she will consider carefully what it means to obey.

It sounds strange to hear that Christ also had to “learn obedience” since he was God. But the Letter to the Hebrews realizes that Christ emptied himself of divinity in becoming human. He too, then, had to struggle to follow the Father’s will as indicated by his request in Gethsemane that he not have to drink of the cup of suffering. His obedience, of course, led to his being exalted as God’s own son when he rose from the dead.

It almost sounds quaint to speak of obedience today. Most people like to think of themselves as autonomous with the ability to determine right from wrong for themselves. Following Church teaching regarding birth control or days of obligation, for examples, seems to them a matter of personal discretion. Such an attitude, however, conflicts with what the Letter to the Hebrews is driving at. Obedience does not lessen a person’s stature; rather, it leads to her personal sanctification.