“What depths of the soul Jonah’s deep sealine sound,” preaches Father Mapple in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. “What a pregnant lesson to us is this prophet! What a noble thing is that canticle in the fish’s belly! How billow-like and boisterously grand! We feel the floods surging over us, we sound with him to the kelpy bottom of the waters; sea-weed and all the slime of the sea is about us!”

Reading this recently, I found myself meditating on how “The Sermon” chapter of the classic tale must be the longest reflection about Jonah that I have ever consumed, albeit not a strictly official one. It’s a charming and thoughtful reflection, nonetheless.

“If we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists,” continues the pastor.

Read that sentence over again. If we are to obey God, we must disobey ourselves. For me, as for I’m sure many of us, obedience to God can be a struggle. Our natural inclination is not to bend to another’s will, and yet that’s what we’re called to do.

Obedience can easily be forgotten today, when we all claim expertise in policy, health care and anything else about which we’ve read one article. For example, we’re not at Mass. Why? Surely we must blame someone in charge. Don’t they know there’s a better way!

At some point, however, we must remember our call to be obedient — obedient to God, of course, but also to those who represent him: the pope, our bishops and our priests. We may be eager to cast blame on the clergy for not allowing us at Mass but when we do that, we’re closing our hearts to the fruit that obedience can bring.