You may have read or heard the story of the baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ by John the Baptist at the River Jordan as recorded in the Gospel of Luke 3:15-22. Jesus came to John the Baptist for baptism in obedience to the plans of God the Father. If you wouldn’t mind, I would love to share with you something that jumps out at me as I reflect on that story. It is on obedience.
Obedience? Yes, Obedience. I have a sense that many people think obedience is one of those outdated virtues. You may have heard people say obedience reminds them of subjugation and control of human liberty. They claim it stifles true development, freethinking and authentic freedom. Many people wouldn’t want to teach their children obedience. Instead, they would substitute it with words like respect because respect recognizes the equality of all. Is this right? I don’t believe so.
Obedience to God doesn’t limit human freedom. Rather, it’s the oil; part of the very nourishment, if you will, of true human freedom because God has shaped the world and ordered things with some sequences according to His will and plan. Obedience to His will makes us ride through the routes of life without unnecessary hindrances or stray to wrong paths. I see in obedience the true freedom to be the best we can; to live a happy life, and to reach our ultimate aspirations.
When Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist, he was obeying the plan of His Father and in turn, His Father endorsed him publicly. Obedience is glorifying God and when God is glorified, we are fully alive. As St. Irenaeus said, “The glory of God is man fully alive” (alternate translation: “The glory of God is a living man”).
I remember when, as a young zealous priest in 2005, I was torn between obeying my Bishop and doing what in my opinion I thought was better for the ministry. I thought I was doing well. Actually, thousands of people were spiritually nourished. You know the temptation that can follow popularity; that was my temptation too.
Thus, when my Bishop, to whom I promised obedience, came up with a contrary plan, honestly, I resented it. It was difficult to obey. The members of the parish where I was weren’t helping matters. When they heard that the Bishop had another plan for me, they resented his plan as well. God forgive our ignorance.
However, in retrospect, I can tell you that the Bishop’s plan was indeed God’s plan for my ministry. I found peace only when I accepted that plan and obeyed, thank God. You can hear me on radio, on TV and many other media platforms today evangelizing and preaching in different cities of the world because I obeyed. It wasn’t easy, but in the end, it paid off.
Obedience makes us do God’s will, not ours. It saves from unnecessary anxiety.
Many times, God speaks to us through a chain of commands. Obedience to those commands would make us truly free, because we will be doing with joy exactly God’s will, fulfilling God’s plan.
Are you struggling with obedience? Ask God for grace so as to learn the redeeming power of obeying God.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[First Sunday Year C: Baptism of the Lord: Is 42:1-6, 6-7; Act 10:34-38; Luke 3:15-16, 21-22]
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.