November 22, 2009
Obedience is Due to our King
The most requested song in sing-along/videoke bars is the famous song by Matt Monro, “My Way.” It is so popular that in one night, it would be sung by several patrons/clients. This usually leads to vicious competition and rivalry among alcohol-fueled singers and, in many cases, ends up in violence and shooting incidents. That is why, in Manila where there is an abundance of such karaoke bars, there is this grim joke and warning: “Be safe. Do not sing ‘My Way’. Many have already died because of this song.” Looking closely at the lyrics of the song, there is something which is against the Gospel values.In a nutshell, it says that now that I am nearing my end, I look back at my life. Though I had some mistakes and regrets, I am proud, “I stood tall,” that “I did it my way.”
The people of Israel had a painful and tragic lesson on this. From the beginning, in the covenant with Abraham, Yahweh was the King of the Chosen People. He was faithful to His promise in the covenant with His people. He brought them out of Egypt. He settled them in the Promised Land. He defended them from all their enemies. He gave them their land, their freedom and He provide for all their needs. But these were not enough. They wanted to have their own king, like their neighbors. In effect, they were rejecting Yahweh as their king. Nevertheless, they had it their own way, they got what they wanted. Yahweh finally acceded to their demand for a human king. That was when troubles began.
The first king was Saul, who was too ambitious and hungry for power. Very soon his crown was taken away by God, and given to David. David was a good king at the start, but later became an adulterer and murderer. His son, Solomon, had many wives and concubines, most of them pagans, who lured him to worship pagan idols. The succeeding kings proved to be disobedient, immoral, murderers and idolaters: “They did evil in the sight of the Lord” (Jer 52:2). The people rejected Yahweh because they wanted their own king. They did it their way, going against God’s way. And this resulted in their untold sufferings.
This is what is going on in the world now. There is so much trouble and sufferings because people are just too proud, greedy and selfish that they would not be willing to follow the norms of right conduct and the natural and divine laws. They just would insist on their personal ambitions and selfish desires, by hook or by crook. Doing it “My Way” is the norm for many people – even if that may offend and hurt others. God is consciously ignored and rejected. Despite the laws God laid down for us, people go on with their own ways. Now we see many countries legalizing the very acts God explicitly prohibits: divorce, abortion, same-sex marriages, euthanasia or assisted suicide, and even attempting to remove the name of God and all divine symbols such as the cross in public places, saying these are unconstitutional.
We all know the consequences of such behavior and actions. We are headed to self-annihilation. Disobeying God’s commandments is sin, and according to St. Paul, sin leads to death (cf. Rom 6:16). That is why, when Peter and the apostles were prohibited by the Sanhedrin from speaking about the name of Jesus, they responded with full conviction: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. In the Gospel, Jesus told Pilate that the sole purpose of his coming into the world was “to testify to the truth.” One such basic and most important truth is that God is King. He is the only king of the world. Psalm 47:8 said: “God is king over all the earth.” In this celebration, therefore, like the Israelites, we are being reminded that God is our only King. And the painful lesson of the Chosen People serves as a warning to us: doing it our way, against God’s way, will surely have tragic and fatal consequences.
The choice is ours to make. We can have it our way. God will not prevent us from exercising our free choice. But we must be ready to face the dire and devastating consequences: death and eternal damnation. Or we can have it God’s way, by faithfully obeying His will which, according to St. Paul, leads to righteousness and salvation (Rom. 6:16). Jesus Christ is our true and only King. He demands obedience from us so that we may have the fullness of life and salvation. He has only one commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 13:34).
And this commandment has only one expression: “The Son of Man has come not to be served, but to serve, and offer his life as ransom for the many” (Mk 10:45). Love and service: these are definitely the marks of the true followers of Jesus and members of his kingdom. The priest reminds us of this in his last words after every Mass: “The Mass is ended. Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord and one another.”
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002