Holy Scripture is the record of God's mighty works, and of the faithful few who remember His marvelous deeds and are obedient to His word. But it is also the story of the faithless crowd who forgets what God has done for them, and fall into disobedience and idolatry.
Psalm 77 (78) is an attempt to encourage the Israelites to remember God and His works: "…We will declare to the generation to come the glorious deeds of the Lord and his strength and the wonders he has wrought…that they too may rise and declare to their sons that they should put their hope in God, and not forget the deeds of God but keep his commands."
But the psalm continues, '…They forgot his deeds, the wonders he had shown them." Disaster, of course, always followed.
They kept the trappings of their religion. They dressed the part, they offered the prescribed sacrifices, and said the prescribed prayers. The Pharisees of Jesus' time, for instance, liked to parade their religion before the people. They wore their prayer shawls and their phylacteries-the little scrolls with scripture verses on them, which dangled from their foreheads-but the hearts of most of them were turned, not to God, but to the world. Their unhappy end with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. should be a lesson to mankind that God's mighty deeds and His commandments must not be taken lightly.
Most Americans believe in God, the media tell us. At least "God as I understand Him." There is still lots of churchgoing and Bible reading, and parading of religion, but the abominable crime of abortion is still tolerated, human life in its earliest stages is subject to experimentation, and the gay lifestyle is publicly accepted. We have pornography, pedophilia, drugs - a long list of evils. People don't seem to be aware that belief in God carries with it the obligation of obedience. Too many are like Ted Turner, who said a few years ago that the Ten Commandments were a leftover from the past, and would have to make way for the principles of secular humanism. Even Charlton Heston, famous for portraying Moses in the movie, The Ten Commandments, suggested that the Ten Commandments were, well, not bad, but he was writing a book for his grandson in which he would presumably make a few improvements on them. We are talking about the Commandments of God.
Then there is the vain boasting about victory over the enemy. God is on our side, isn't He? But we insist on doing things our way, and than we expect God to bless the results. Unfortunately, America - and Canada, Britain, and the other European countries - have exhausted their credit with God. We are spiritually bankrupt, a disobedient people far from God, and facing the same disasters as the faithless Israelites.
Jesus once commented on the fate of those who had been killed in the collapse of a tower: "…Those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloe fell and killed them; do you think that they were more guilty than all the other dwellers in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent, you will all perish in the same manner." (Lk.13:4,5)
God must find at least a few obedient servants in America, if He is going to be sparing in His punishment. Are we not desperate enough yet to get down on our knees and beg God for mercy, like the poor woman in the Gospel today? She must have been quite a sight after years of illness-bent over, haggard looking. The Gospel of St. Mark says that she had suffered many things from physicians and had spent all her money, but no one could cure her. So she got down on her knees, or perhaps from her stooped position, she touched the hem of Jesus' garment. And she was instantly healed.
Now, Jesus, our Sovereign King Whom we formally acknowledge with this feast of the last Sunday of October, wants to help us too, but what He is looking for, first of all, is obedient servants, obedient disciples. I don't have to point out that the Kingdom of God is not a democracy. The will of God the Father is absolute, and the Son and the Holy Ghost are of one will with Him. The angels and the saints are in complete conformity to the holy will of God. What is called for is obedience.
The world in general, however, takes after its father, the devil. It is characterized by disobedience. We should think long and hard about this, because disobedience is a far worse sin that most people think. Nothing takes us away from God more quickly. Not that every act of disobedience is a mortal sin, but what was the sin of Lucifer, into which he was led by his pride? Disobedience! What was the sin of Adam and Eve? Disobedience! And the human race has been in rebellion ever since.
On the other hand we have Jesus Christ - Whom Isaiah called in prophecy, "the obedient Servant of God" - obedient to the Father's will even unto death, death on a cross. Nothing is more Christ-like than obedience.
If we need a practical conclusion, how about getting serious about practicing the virtue of obedience, in imitation of Jesus Himself. The virtues must be practiced if we are to become true disciples, followers of Christ. This is especially true of obedience. This is not easy, because obedience is not valued by the world. I understand that the celebrated Harry Potter is not an example of obedience, nor of much else that is Christian. He should not become a hero for Catholic children. The importance of obedience should be carefully explained to the children, with patience and kindness. They should know that they are expected to be obedient because Jesus was obedient.
We adults, too, should do a careful examination of conscience about obedience. It is up to us to give the example. Sometimes we know that we are off the track, stubbornly resisting God's will. The Commandments themselves accuse us. And we make decisions and all kinds of plans without praying about them. God just might want to be consulted! And then we expect God to take the responsibility for the unhappy results. Jesus would never do that. His prayer was always, "Father, not my will, but Yours be done." If we are not to be hypocrites, we must mean what we say when we pray, as Jesus taught us, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven." †