Obedience and the Holy Family

Holy Family

The Gospel of Matthew 2:13-23

When the wise men departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.”

Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaos reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”


Obedience is not a word we like to think about in our 21st century life.  We don’t really like to be obedient to anything but ourselves but in essence we are all obedient to one thing or another.

When I was entering the monastery we had classes on various monastic topics.  We spent time discussing and meditating on the monastic vows; poverty, chastity, obedience, stability these are the vows that all monastics take.  I found that the most difficult of all of these was the vow of obedience.  I was not concerned about obedience to the rule of the monastery or to the abbot it was the bell that I had an issue with.

Several times a day, the monastery bell would ring to call us to prayer.  Not matter what you were doing, when the bell rang you dropped it and set out for the chapel for prayer.  I had a very difficult time with this.  I would be right in the middle of something and the bell would ring.  Not matter what time of the day; it always seemed I was in the middle of something.  Obedience to the bell was a big part of the life of a monk and a difficult lesson for me to learn.

In the Gospel for the Sunday after the Nativity there are several lessons of obedience to God and His call on us.  Joseph the Betrothed is several times called to obedience.  We read earlier in the Gospel that when he finds out that Mary is pregnant he wants to divorce her quietly.  The Angel comes to him is a dream and tells him that all will be well.  He is obedient to God’s will and takes Mary as his wife and raises Jesus as his own son.  Latter we read of flight from Egypt.  Again the Angel comes to Joseph and tells him to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt to protect Jesus.  He does this without question, once again obeying God’s will.

The Wise Men are also obedient to the will of God.  Herod wants them to return to him to give him information on the new child so he can worship him.  The Angel comes to them and warns them to go another route home and they follow the will of God and do so.

The Theotokos is also an example of obedience.  She agrees to be the mother of God without question and walks in His will for the rest of her life.  And the perfect example of obedience is Jesus Himself.  In the Garden, the night before his crucifixion, he pleads with God the let this cup pass from Him.  In the end He prays that it be God’s will and not His that is done that night.

Walking in the will of God is not an easy thing, if you are life me you want to be in control of everything, and we quickly learn that if we want to be in God’s will be have to obey Him and His Church.

Obedience is not an easy thing but it is something that we have to do and that all of us are called too.

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