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Holy Week and the obedience of faith

Banner christ entering jerusalem on an ass by hippolyte flandrin  early 19th c.

L'Entrée à Jerusalem by Hippolyte Flandrin, early 19th C.

We are entering the holiest week of the Christian year.

Beginning with Passion Sunday, we will trace the final steps of our Lord’s journey to the cross. It is a road of sorrow that we know leads to his death. But on this road every sorrow is turned to joy because we know we will stand at his empty tomb of Easter Sunday.

Jesus Christ died so that we could live. And in this Holy Week, everything becomes clear. Why he came down from heaven. What he meant to teach us while he was on earth.

St. Paul tells us: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

We hear these words every Passion Sunday. And on Good Friday we always hear these words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.”

Obedience. In one word, we have the pattern of our Lord’s life — and the pattern that he proposes for our lives.

Over and over in the Gospels, Jesus tells us that he came not to do his will but to do the will of his Father. Even in his darkest hour, on the night before he died, he prayed for the strength to be obedient to God’s will: “Not my will, but your will be done.”

“Obedience” is not a good word for us modern Americans.

We kind of resent the whole idea of being obedient to someone else’s authority. It implies a relationship of servitude or not being free, not having power. And we always want to be in charge, in control.

Jesus said the way of the world is that those who are powerful “lord it over” those who are not. But for us, it must be different, he said. We become great by being servants. 

Faith in Jesus means living according to his Word and according to his example. St. Paul called it the “obedience of faith.”

The obedience of faith is not the obedience of a slave. It is not motivated by fear. It is not just passively accepting that “it is what it is.”

Christian obedience is an act of true freedom. It is free choice to surrender our will to God. It is a free choice to follow Jesus. It is obedience that is freely given in love.

We serve by our own choice, not because we are forced to. With God everything is an invitation. We obey because we want to accept his plan for our lives — a plan of mercy and love, a plan that leads to glory.

Following the path that leads from Passion Sunday to Easter Sunday, we discover the mystery of God’s will for our lives, the greater things that we are born for.

This is why I wrote my pastoral letter, which I released on Ash Wednesday, because we need to know and to rejoice in God’s will for our lives.

God’s will for us is beautiful and simple. St. Paul said, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification.”

Always, we need to remember that sanctification or holiness does not mean “other-worldliness.” Jesus was the Holy One of God and yet he lived among us — working with human hands, loving with a human heart. He wept with human emotion for his friends. He suffered and he died.

And he did all of this for us.

We could not find God unless he came to us. And so he has come to be our friend, our companion, our fellow traveler.

Jesus calls us to follow him — to give up our own plans, our own desires. We do not know where this act of obedience will take us.

Faith is a journey. Sometimes we are walking in light — clear and confident, we know what God is asking of us and we are happy to do it. Sometimes, however, we are walking in shadows. God can seem like he is far away and silent. Sometimes he does not seem to want what we want. 

But he promises that all things work together for the good of those who love him. We know that in the obedience of faith we will find salvation.

This is why Jesus became obedient even to accepting death, death on a cross. He did this so that we can know a new and beautiful life — finding God in every moment and offering ourselves to him: “Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.”

So as we enter this Holy Week, pray for me and I will pray for you.

I am praying that this Easter will be a time of joy and peace for you and your family.

May our Blessed Mother Mary guide all of us to know the beauty of the Resurrection and help us to walk always in the obedience of faith. 

Editor’s note: To receive a free copy of Archbishop Gomez’s new pastoral letter, “For Greater Things You Were Born,” go to angelusnews.com/planoflove.

You can follow Archbishop Gomez daily via FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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