Daily Archives: April 16, 2011



(A biblical refection on PALM (PASSION) SUNDAY [YEAR A], April 17, 2011) 

Second Reading: Phil 2:6-11 

First Reading: Is 50:4-7; Psalms: Ps 22:8-9,17-20,23-24; Gospel Reading: Mt 26:14-27:66 (Mt 27:11-54) 

The Scripture Text

Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:6-11 RSV) 

Among all the sights, sounds, and smells of our liturgies during the Holy Week, one image will overshadow all the others: Jesus Christ crucified. Today and all the week, as we recall the events of Jesus’ Passion and death, God is inviting us to do more than simply remember past events. He invites us to join Jesus on the road toCalvaryand peer into His heart at each step along the way. As we do this, let us allow Paul’s hymn about the humility of Christ to guide us. 

Though He was in the form of God, [Jesus] … emptied Himself (Phil 2:6-7). What could be a greater self-emptying (Greek: kenosis) than for the perfect Son of God to submit to the judgment of sinful men and women? What greater humility could there be than allowing your own creation to put you to death? Imagine Jesus standing before the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, humbly submitting to their judgment and their mockery. He formed each of them and gave them precious gifts they were to use to glorify His Father. And here, these gifts are used instead to beat Him, ridicule Him, and put Him to death. 

He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Imagine the pain of the cross – not just the physical pain, but the emotional and spiritual pain. Jesus was abandoned by everyone. Even heaven seemed closed off. No matter where He looked, there was no comfort to be found, no assurance that the torment of His body was doing anyone any good. Yet He was convinced that God had led Him to the cross, and so He submitted to it, trusting in His Father with every labored breath He took. 

Yes, Jesus spent His entire time on earth living in humble obedience. He obeyed His parents (see Lk 2:51). He obeyed God’s call to public ministry (see Mt 3:14-15). He was obedient to God in times of trial and temptation (Jn 12:27-28). He spent time with His Father in prayer so that He might know and obey the Father’s will (see Lk 6:12-13). Obedience, however, was not always easy for Jesus – just think about His struggle in theGarden ofGethsemane. But Jesus constantly relied on the power of the Holy Spirit and so won the victory of obedience, i.e. His resurrection into glory! 

Finally, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name (Phil 2:9). Jesus is glorified because He emptied Himself and accepted death. As a matter of fact, the summary of all the readings for today – and of the whole Gospel – is this: Obedience to God always brings about exaltation. Jesus passed through death to new life because of His obedience, and He has paved a way for all of us to experience the same death-to-life transformation. Therefore, as we meditate on the death and resurrection of Jesus in this Holy Week, let us especially focus on the glorious victory that Jesus won for us by His reverent submission to God. 

As you imagine all of heaven bowing before Him, picture the awe on the faces of the angels. They are looking at His now glorified wounds and wondering over the love that moved Him to accept death for our sake. Now fully God and fully man, bearing the marks of the cross, Jesus allowed Himself to be forever changed …… simply because He loves us all. Let us now allow the promise of the Gospel to move us to imitate Jesus’ life of obedience. Of course it will entail suffering at times, but it will also bring deeper intimacy with Jesus and greater freedom and joy. Let us also be confident that every time we obediently die to self, our heavenly Father will bring us to new life. 

Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, I am in awe over Your humble obedience and Your love for me. This week, as I walk with You may I encounter You as never before. By Your Holy Spirit, let me fall in love with You all over again. Amen. 

Jakarta, April 14, 2011  

A Christian Pilgrim





The obedience of Jesus Christ to the Father is carried out above all through obedience to the written word. When Jesus was tempted in the desert, His obedience consisted in recalling the word of God and keeping to it. ‘It is written!’ God’s words, under the present action of the Holy Spirit, become vehicles of the living will of God and reveal their ‘binding’ nature as orders from God. Herein lies the obedience of the new Adam in the desert. After the last ‘It is written’ said by Jesus, Luke goes on to tell us that the ‘devil left Him’ (Lk 4:12) and that Jesus returned to Galilee‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Lk 4:14). The Holy Spirit is given to those who ‘obey God’ (Acts 5:32). St.James says: ‘Give in to God, resist the devil, and he will run away from you’ (Jas 4:7). That is what happened when Jesus was tempted. Jesus bases His obedience, in a particular way, on the words written about Him and for Him ‘in the law, in the prophets and in the psalms’, which He, as man, gradually discovers as He advances in understanding and fulfilling His mission. The perfect concord that exists between the prophecies of the Old Testament and the acts of Jesus as seen in the New Testament, cannot be explained by saying that the prophecies depend on the acts (that is, that the prophecies were later applied to the acts already carried out by Jesus) but by saying that the acts depend on the prophecies: Jesus ‘fulfilled’ in perfect obedience what was written of Him by the Father. When His disciples want to oppose His capture, Jesus says: ‘But then how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this is the way it must be?” (Mt 26:54). The life of Jesus seems to be guided by an invisible luminous trail formed ot the words written for Him; it is from the Scriptures that He takes the ‘must be’ (dei) which governs His whole life.  

The greatness of the obedience of Jesus is measured objectively by ‘what he suffered’ and subjectively by the love and freedom with which He obeyed. St. Basil says there are three dispositions with which one can obey: the first is the fear of punishment, as in the case with slaves; the second is a desire for reward, as in the case of mercenaries; the third one is out of love and this is the attitude of sons and daughters (cf. St. Basil, Reg. Fus. Proem. PG 31, 896).  Filial obedience is radiant in Jesus to the highest and most perfect degree. Even in the most extreme moments, as when the Father offers Him the chalice of the passion to drink, this filial cry ‘Abba!’ was always on His lips. ‘My God, my God, why have You abandoned Me?’ He exclaimed from the cross (Mat 27:46); but according to Luke, He immediately added: ‘Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit’ (Lk 23:46). On the cross Jesus abandoned Himself to the God who was abandoning Him! This is what obedience unto death means; this the ‘rock of our salvation’. 

In the obedience of Jesus, as seen in the New Testament, it is possible to grasp the fullest and deepest meaning of this virtue. It is not only a moral virtue, but a theological one also. From the Scholastic viewpoint, which was based on schemes of virtues taken from Aristotle and Stoicism, obedience  is connected with justice; as such, it is placed among the moral virtues whose object is the means, not the end, and it is strictly distinct from the theological virtues – faith, hope, charity – through which one adheres to God Himself. But in the Bible, and especially in the New Testament, obedience, in so far as it is principally obedience to God, is above all so connected with faith as often to be confused with it. It concerns therefore not only the means but also the end; through it one adheres to God Himself and not simply to an intermediate good, even if this is the ‘common good’. ‘It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the  call’ (Heb 11:8). Obedience is the type of faith required when the revealed word is not simply a truth of God to be believed, but the will  of God to be fulfilled. Faith, in another sense, is also obedience when it manifests itself as a truth to be believed, because reason does not accept  it for its intrinsic evidence, but because of the authority behind it. The expression, ‘obedience to faith’, which we often find in St. Paul, does not simply mean obeying what is believed, but rather to obey believing, by the very fact of believing. St. Irenaeus expresses this very concisely when he says that ‘believing is to do God’s will’ (Adv. Haer. IV, 6,5.). The very words in which obedience is expressed are closely connected to those used to express faith: one term (hypakuo, ob-audire), in fact, means to listen and another term (peithomai, from the same  root as pistis!) means to let oneself be persuaded, to have faith in or trust in.

(To be continued) 

Source: Raniero Cantalamessa, OBEDIENCE – The authority of the Word, Middlegreen, England: St. Paul Publications, 1989. Original Title: L’Obbedienza, translated from the Italian by Frances Lonergan Villa. Copied by A Christian Pilgrim.

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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in LENT AND EASTERTIDE