There is a subtle, silent and unspoken underlying theme in all of today’s readings: obedience. It is summarized in the not-so-subtle last line of the Gospel when Jesus uses the word, command. This is a word not seen often in the Gospels. In Mark 9:26, Jesus commands the demons to leave the person and the demons obey. In Mathew 20:21, the mother of James and John asks Jesus to command that her two sons sit at His right and at His left in the Kingdom. We remember how that turns out. Twice, Peter uses the word. To challenge his own faith he says, “Lord, if it is you command me to come to you on the water,” (Mt.14:28), and again, challenging his own faith, when he responds, “…but at your command I will lower the nets” (Lk. 5:5). At the end of Jesus’ long discourse on righteous living He issues a strong challenge to His listeners: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ but not do what I command” (Lk. 6:46)? Lastly, Jesus speaks of Himself as the Good Shepherd who is willing to lay down His life for His sheep and concludes by saying, “This command I have received from my Father” (Jn. 10:18). He indicates His own willful and free act of obedience and shows us His own willingness to practice what He preaches.
The word, obey, comes from the Latin, ab audire, which means, to listen. How often have we said to our disobedient children, “Why didn’t you listen to me?” In the first reading, today, Peter listens to the Holy Spirit and Baptizes Cornelius and his family. In the Psalm we hear the many reasons we have to obey the command: Sing to the Lord… sing praise. John explains to us the logic behind Jesus’ command to love. Love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God… for God is love. None of this, however, makes it easy to love.
How do we obey Jesus’ command to love one another? I wish I had all the answers. I remember, one time, hearing some one say, “It’s easy to love; not so easy to like.” We confuse these two words often but it raises a pertinent question. How do we love someone we don’t like? Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan comes to mind, a man caring for someone he didn’t know—and maybe did not like—after two others, who definitely did not like the injured man, passed him by. Jesus tells us, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” Two commandments are: Love others as we love ourselves, and treat others as we would have others treat us. This seems like a good place to start looking for answers.