Rev José Mario O Mandía
“Mary, wake up!”
“Huh? What? Do you know what time it is?”
“I know. But we have to get out of here.”
“What did you say?”
“We have to get out of here. Herod wants to kill our Baby!”
“Where on earth did you get that news?”
“Well, an angel told me.”
“As I dreamt.”
“Ah, Joseph, you can’t believe in dreams all the time. Besides, if it is that important, the angel would have told me as well! Now get back to sleep and let’s talk about it tomorrow.”
Imagine what would have happened if this conversation really took place: there would be no Messiah, no Christmas, no Church, no Sacraments, no salvation, no future for you and me, no meaning to life, and nothing to make life worth living.
“Many great things depend — don’t forget it — on whether you and I live our lives as God wants.” (St Josemaría, The Way 755) St Paul explains: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). What a great difference the disobedience or obedience of just one man makes!
Obedience is one immediate consequence of humility. Jesus showed us the way: “he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
When God called Abraham, he (Abraham) was already 75 years old (cf Genesis 12:1-3), ready for retirement. Yet he obeyed God’s call, waiting till he was 100 years old (25 years!) for God to fulfill his promise of giving him a son (cf Genesis 21:5).
Abraham obeyed, Moses obeyed, Joshua obeyed, Samuel obeyed, … Mary obeyed, Joseph obeyed, Jesus obeyed, Peter obeyed … Everyone who has become a main character in the History of Salvation had to obey. You and I are also called to become characters in that History. You and I are also called to obedience.
One difficulty with obedience is that God’s will at times tends to clash with ours. The angel had told Joseph, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” (Matthew 2:13) We don’t like sudden changes of plans, do we? And St Joseph had to face that, too. Moreover, he could have thought, “What poor planning! And I thought God knew everything!” But he obeyed just the same.
Sometimes the difficulty lies in the fact that God does not always specify the details. The angel’s instructions were to stay in Egypt “till I tell you” (Matthew 2:13). “Till I tell you” is not very clear, is it? Joseph could have asked for more details: “Does that mean one week, one month, one year …?” But those were the only instructions, and he obeyed.
Another difficulty with obedience is that God does not always contact us directly. He often speaks through a middleman. Samuel knew God’s will through Eli (cf I Samuel 3), Saul got to know about it through Ananias (cf Acts 9). And it can also happen that the middleman is not easy to get along with.
At times He speaks through the circumstances we find ourselves in. Therese of Lisieux had dreams of being a martyr. But there was no way she could be a martyr in the convent. By meditating on chapter 13 of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, she concluded that God simply wanted her to be love, that is, to personify charity in her dealings with the other sisters.
Every miracle in the History of Salvation is a story of obedience. Miracles happen when, with full trust in God’s Wisdom, Goodness and Power, we pray, “Thy will be done.”