The readings today are rich, full of much to contemplate. What stood out to me are the very last few lines of the Gospel. Our Lord declares he can’t do anything on His own. That He came, not to do what He wanted, but to do what was asked of Him by His Father. My goodness, how far that must have been from people’s perceptions of the coming of the Messiah. But there is so much instruction for our spiritual lives in those last few lines.
At another point in the Gospel of Matthew when instructing His followers, Jesus uses the phrase, “ you have heard it said”, and then goes on to give them a new teaching which improves on and expands the law as it was understood. I can imagine the last few lines in today’s Gospel could be laid out for us in a similar format, contrasting Our Lord’s teaching with today’s conventional thinking. Jesus could say, you have heard it said in today’s culture that you should be independent, strong and self reliant, but I say to you be dependent on the Lord in all things. He might then follow with, maybe you have heard it said in today’s culture to do your own thing, to be you, to follow your passion, but I say to you be obedient to the will of your Father in heaven, seek His will always in your life.
To be dependent today, to not be able to do all the things we want or the way we want, even to be obedient is so counter cultural. But as Our Lord knows, it is when we acknowledge our dependence on Him that we become humble and recognize our need to ask God for help. Our Lord knows that true peace and joy comes not from doing what we want, but by doing the will of our Father. Conforming ourselves in the way of dependency and obedience does not restrict us, confine us, or limit us. It frees us. It is only then that we can begin to make spiritual progress.
So much of how the Son of God came into the world defied human logic. He was born in a manger, in poverty, as a human, to serve others, to die. Add to that He was dependent and obedient. God’s ways are not man’s ways. But they are the way to our salvation.
Steve Walsh is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center in Sierra Madre ,and a good friend of the Passionist Community.