OBEDIENCE Homily for Tuesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time, 19 Oct 2021, Lk 12:35-38

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“Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will.” Today, we focus our reflection on OBEDIENCE. If obedience is about doing God’s will, I suppose it is not even possible to obey without knowing and understanding God’s will, first and foremost.

The word OBEDIENCE comes from two Latin words OB and AUDIRE. OB- means “in the direction of” and AUDIRE is “to listen.” It means “to focus one’s attention to the call and to be ready to respond to it.”

The image that we get in the Gospel is that of a servant who awaits his master’s return, ready to open the door when he knocks. The term that actually comes close to the original meaning of obedience is ATTENTIVENESS to a calling or a vocation. We have only one life to live; of course we would want to know what we are called to do.

In English, you say “PRESENT!” when your name is called in a roll call. In Latin, they say “ADSUM!” Literally, it means, “HERE I AM”, or “I AM AT YOUR DISPOSAL.”

The prophet Samuel was supposed to have heard God’s call early in his life; he was just a young boy serving the old priest Eli. We hear about it in the first book of Samuel chapter 3. We are told that the young boy Samuel kept waking up in the middle of the night and presenting himself to the old priest, saying, HERE I AM, YOU CALLED ME?

But the old priest kept saying to him, “No I did not call you. Go back to sleep.” But it happened again and again, and it was not until the third time that the old priest realized that it must have been God calling him. And so he said to him, “The next time you hear the voice again, you say, “SPEAK, LORD YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING.” That was how his prophetic calling began.

Attentive listening is what is most essential in obedience. Listening to what the Lord has to say. God has his unique ways of getting us to know and understand his will before we can respond with obedience.

The problem is, sometimes we fail in discernment and ascribe to God what is not from God. Maybe this should serve as a good spiritual test for people who present themselves as candidates for the coming May 2022 elections. Even ancient kings often consulted prophets to know God’s will and to heed God’s call. Imagine how embarrassing it must be to be fully convinced that you are being called by God to run for for office only to be told by the prophet, “Go back to sleep. You must be dreaming. God did not call you.”

The late Swedish UN Secretary General Dag Hammarskjold left a diary which revealed what a deeply spiritual person he was. His reflections in this diary made people understand why he was such a strong-willed man in the peace advocacy, for which he got a Nobel Prize. In his journal, he wrote, “I do not know who or what put the question. I don’t know when it was put. I don’t even remember answering. But at some point I did answer YES to Someone—or something—and from that hour I was certain that existence is meaningful and that therefore my life, in self-surrender—had a goal.”

He wrote it in Swedish, of course. Remember how I used to react to that term SURRENDER in relation to OBEDIENCE? I have a feeling that what Hammarskjold really meant was SELF-OBLATION or SELF-OFFERING.

I also wonder if the poem by David Harris entitled WHO IS CALLING YOU was not inspired by these famous lines from Hammarskjold. He says,

“Deep within the silence,
we hear our name called.
We never know what for,
only that we are summoned,
for something, we must do,
whether it be to love someone
or give a little care. “
“It could be that a life
someone needs to share.
So when from within the silence
someone calls your name
You never ever hesitate
and answer it just the same.
You answer because you never know who is calling you.”

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