Grace to you
Today’s reflection is an inspiration on the connection between faith, listening, obedience and action.
People spend years learning and training in view of practice. Be it in the medical field, engineering, information technology, education and technical works, etc., months are spent to learn the skills. Theories are built and studied. Test practices are carried out. These are all efforts made so learners, “followers,” will be equipped for the real world, where they practice and continue to build on what they have learned.
It would be as good as dead to learn something or to acquire some knowledge, and not be able to implement what one has learned. In fact, the proof of ones’ learning is in the practice of it. It is in implementation. Implementation is measurable. It’s what demonstrates that the person learned the principles. No one knows our mind and what is going on in our mind. No one knows to what extent we know what we should regarding our profession. People could measure it from what we say, write, and/or do.
In our spiritual life, similar reality is the case. From the prophesy of Isaiah, we hear the prophet describe of his experience as one called and chosen by God. He goes through a period of learning. “The Lord Godhas given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him that is weary. Morning by morning he wakens, he wakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. The Lord Godhas opened my ear, and I was not rebellious” (Is 50:4-5).
The context of this prophetic writing shows us that what God was teaching and asking the prophet to do was not an easy task. It would result in a lot of inconveniences, persecution and trials. Yet the prophet says, “I turned not my back” (Is 50:5). Meaning, that the prophet’s determination to follow the directives of the Lord was not to evade the crosses that discipleship brings.
Though, as we learn from the synoptic gospels (Mt 26:67; 27:30; cf. also Mk 15:19; Jn 19:3), and from St. Paul (Rm 8:33) that this prophesy was referring to the Christ, and that the early Fathers of the Church applied it to the Lord Jesus Christ, we could learn from it some lessons worth emulating as believers. The disciple of Jesus Christ is the follower in the footsteps of Christ.
The Lord himself would teach the disciples at Caesarea Philippi what following him would entail and what it should be like. “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mk 8:34-35).
Listening has the same Latin etymological root as obedience. It is ob-audirewhich means to hear, to listen or to obey. God calls the prophet to listen, to obey. Whenever the Lord calls us in ways only the Lord knows, some in simple ways, others through dramatic changes in life, it is an invitation to learn, to listen, to obey the Lord. Faith is a call to listen to the Lord, and to obey. It is a call to discipleship.
Following the Lord is not a cherry-picking exercise where I pull from the basket what is only pleasant and leave what is unpleasant. Following the Lord actually often demands embracing the unpleasant, the painful, sacrifices, which otherwise we may not have accepted.
It is, for instance, saying no to sinful desires. It is rooting out evil and injustice where I find it, even if my friend or family is the culprit and it would cost me my popularity or positional power. It is accepting to be called laidback in order to honor the integrity of my marriage, even if my business associates take the alternative as the norm.
It is getting up from the comfort of my bed on a wintery Sunday morning, and going to church to worship. It is never convenient, yet it is the will of the Lord.
It is stopping by the homeless shelter and getting my hands and blazer suit dirty in serving the poor in obedience to the Lord’s voice which whispered I do so as I drove by that neighborhood.
It entails returning love for hate even when this makes me look like a coward. It means holding my tongue from gossip even if my friends would avoid me for doing so.
It means not texting or sharing that online message that promotes hate or falsehood; or not being part of a circle of fake news by sharing everything and blogging everything when I’m not sure of how true it may be.
We know the quality of one’s faith, one’s disciple of the Lord through what one does. As Saint James says, “So also faith of itself,if it does not have works, is dead” (Jas 2:17).
Praying for the grace to live our faith in word and deeds. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[24thSunday Ordinary Time B: Is 50:5-9; Jas 2:14-18; Mk 8:27-35]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.