First Reading: Acts 5:27-33
Responsorial Psalm: 34:2,17-20
Gospel: John 3:31-36
It will sound strange in a nation founded to enshrine freedom, but the readings for today extol the virtues of obedience. That word is often taboo in today’s world, and we can be intimidated by the responsibilities that obedience requires.
The first reading in particular goes even further: with many people claiming authority, to whom will you give your allegiance, especially if it means going against personal and religious convictions? “We gave you strict orders, did we not? Stop teaching in that name!” We are led to believe if we will simply follow the status-quo, and stop preaching about Jesus, then the culture will accept us, and life will be peaceful. Such a conviction is even threatening; “you want to bring this man’s blood upon us.” To preach and live obedience to God, rather than to men, is to inform the powers of the world that you obey only to the extent that they also obey God. This is a true challenge, in an age when many believe the Faith to be a purely “personal” experience.
“We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Growing up, I was deeply thankful for the Social Teaching and Tradition of the Catholic Church. God had not required me to re-derive every possible tenant of the faith from scratch out of the Bible. No, the expectations had all been laid out for me by the Church and the Saints, and God’s calling was clear: I was to obey God’s New Law of Love by serving the world through His Mystical Body, the Church. What if the world resists, or fights against me? “The God of our ancestors raised Jesus, though you had him killed by hanging him on a tree.” In obedience to Jesus’ call to repentance, we enter Baptism and receive “the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him”. If I am attacked in my faith, I shall be raised with Jesus. What true freedom this gives! This is the paradox of the Christian life; in full obedience to Christ Jesus, we gain total freedom, so even death should not scare us, as it did not scare the Apostles. Think about that! These apostles not not only fought the status quo of their culture, they stood with Christ knowing it would likely lead to their deaths.
As we continue through this Easter season, this reading invites us to look back at Christ’s testimony and consider the last line of this gospel: “Whoever believes the Son has eternal life, but whoever disobeys the Son will not see life.” Here, we see that belief is contrasted with disobedience, demonstrating that belief in God is an active verb, an actively obedient heart. Because God “does not ration his gift of the Spirit”, we all have the ability to follow God’s Law of Love, to serve God and neighbor, and to persist in holiness even as we are resisted by the world. We are an Easter People, and this season fills us with Joy! Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! God has promised eternal life to those who obey Him, so let us obey God rather than men.
Be the Good, Do the Good.