Open Bible: July 2002 

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Obedient until death.




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Obedient until death.

obéissance  "Christ Jesus, having taken human nature humiliated himself and became obedient until death…" (Phil2, 7-8) 

This brief statement of Paul to characterize Jesus' behavior had certainly a profound influence on the way the Church saw how to imitate the Master. The link between humiliation and obedience reinforced the "annihilation" aspect of obedience. Presented as the best of the virtues for the disciples, it has inspired in the schools of spirituality some questionable forms of asceticism because they are so far from the concrete attitudes of Jesus as described in the Gospel. Sometimes those having authority use obedience as an easy way, spiritually justified, to obtain an unconditional submission.

Jesus considered that obedience is primarily the fidelity to the will of his Father, expressed in the commandments and precepts of the Law, the signs of the Alliance with God. First, the fundamental commandment "Listen Israel, the Lord your God is one, you will love him with all your heart…." Before the word " you will love" there is the word "Listen" that means open your heart to the message that brings life.

Like all humans, Jesus of Nazareth began by receiving the essential values from his parents as well as food and lodging. "He was obedient to them" (Luke 2, 51) this is natural for a child! There is no humiliation in it but instead a way "to grow in wisdom, in age and in grace"

Synagogue  The development of his personality depended on his relatives, his friends, the teachers of the Holy Scriptures in the Synagogue of Nazareth; certainly also in the respect of the civil laws for the good of his country: to give back to Cesar what belong to Cesar… Jesus incorporated all this different knowledge into wisdom of living, according to his own judgment. One cannot imagine all that happened without difficulties or revolts, without some misunderstandings as for any human being. One day he was called to become a prophet. 

On his way, in proclaiming the Kingdom, Jesus continued to listen, to broaden his views depending on who he met, like the meeting of people of another religion, of another culture: the Cananean, the Centurion…He was coming to save the lost sheep of Israel, progressively he discovered the universality of his mission.

Suddenly the truth expressed by the intellectuals and the priests of his people loses its absolute value. When they stopped midway toward the truth by making sacred what is only a way to change man's life (the Law, the Shabbat…) Jesus called to go beyond their truth, where life is flourishing in full liberty and he said " The Shabbat is done for man, not man for the Shabbat" The true criteria for a proper judgment, the only commandment worth obeying is: "Will it save a life on the Shabbat? Is it allowed that day to do somebody good?"

One goes from the status of a commandment to the status to do the good to a human being. This does not go against the Law but further. It follows the meaning of Jesus:" I did not come to abolish the Law but to accomplish it" It is not an easy way; this obedience is difficult, involving a humble questioning and a permanent tension.

It follows that the High Priest and the Elders, who are concentrated on the letter of the commandments, are not any more considered as an ultimate reference; they shall not be unconditionally followed.

Ece Homo  It was a dangerous situation, for them Jesus became a dissident to be eliminated. His obedience to God was understood as a resistance directed against them. With a personal authority that nobody could stop, Jesus chose to practice the request: "You shall love" in concrete conditions following his own conscience of a religious man. 

His way of acting so freely is not a mad independence neither a proud disregard for the authority, like a guru out of control and unaware of the necessities of the daily life. One judges the tree by its fruit and Jesus, by obeying, certainly produced the fruits of the Holy Spirit as described by Saint Paul:" love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5, 22). The ultimate testimony was given on the day that his enemies put him on a cross outside Jerusalem.

Faithful to his example, and following the same thinking, the Apostles, Peter and John facing the Sanhedrin proclaimed: "We must obey God rather than men" (Act 4, 29).

This obedience in the events of life, an attention to the great calls of the Gospel, lead the pilgrims of the Absolute to surpass their own possibilities.