Obedience is one of the three vows that I took as a Roman Catholic Sister many years ago that is still part of religious profession. In my early days (the “good old days”) it was easier to live that vow as it was interpreted by most as just doing what one was told by the superior who had the ear of God in all things large and small. As we have evolved, so has our understanding of this vow that we take to God through our religious community. We understand that the root of the word “obedience” – from the Latin – means to hear. Most often for religious, it means to hear together, to discern in community or to hear honestly what God is saying to us individually while not abrogating the responsibility to be obedient as well to legitimate authority. The difference is, in part, the recognition that every mature person is called to maturity in decision-making.
Jesus often ends a story or a lesson with the words, “Let the one who hears…” followed by the requisite action. He is calling for an obedience that comes from understanding of what he’s asking and then an assent to it. Sometimes his call is to a higher law, going beyond, but not abrogating, the Mosaic Law that he came not to destroy but to fulfill. This morning’s gospel (MT 12:1-8) is a great example of going beyond a law for a higher good. The disciples are hungry, but it is the Sabbath. The law calls people to refrain from picking grain on the Sabbath. That reminds me of when I was young and the law of the Church was clear: “No unnecessary servile work on Sunday.” We used to define that in my house as no doing of laundry, no ironing…but it didn’t mean we could skip washing the dishes. It’s easy to see the reason; we were supposed to spend our day differently from other days of the week, in a way that kept us in mind of God. It was never to be a question of “the letter” of the law, but rather of living in that spirit. It was a process of doing what was logical to achieve the goal while always thinking of the good outcome. Putting on the mind of Christ means making good decisions, living in the love of God at all times and acting from that center. In that way we will always know what is the right thing to do. In that way every day will be our Sabbath.