Tuesday, October 6, 2009

No, It's Not A Dirty Word!

"Terrible are the wiles and stratagems the devil uses to hinder people from realizing their weakness and detecting his snares."

-St. Teresa of Avila, Interior Castle

It's been ripped from wedding vows. It's been side-stepped by Christian leaders. It's been subjected to creative interpretation by Christians everywhere. It’s a concept deemed so offensive or harmful by modern thinkers that parents no longer demand it of their children. It's a word that clashes with 21st century relativistic sensibilities. It has been disparaged, disregarded, denounced, dodged, denied and discarded as archaic, irrelevant to our temporal existence and unimportant to our spiritual health.

This is a concept over which the Church has never stuttered, and is discussed extensively in Sacred Scripture; yet still, even some of the most apparently devout Christians will find themselves sidestepping it. What on earth could this contemptible concept be?

It's ... It's ...



Ever since Adam and Eve were duped into eating the forbidden fruit, obedience has been our greatest obstruction. I know it's mine, and Christians who are honest with themselves admit that it's theirs as well.  Disobedience is what causes our separation from God.  Isn't sin quite simply disobedience to the divine law?  It will keep us from achieving union with God in this life, and could jeopardize our salvation in the next.

We read the following in Lumen Gentium: “The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church." (#37)

Obedience, after all, is a choice—it’s a choice based in love of God and love of neighbor over the love of the self. What is love of God and love of neighbor again? Christ tells us in the Gospel of John: “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you.” Jn 15:13.

We can only truly obey when we die to the self.  Obedience isn’t subject to our scrutiny, interpretation, rationalization or personal preference. We aren't given an option to determine for ourselves any part of what we will or won't obey. We are given an instruction, and we follow it in its entirety, laying down our lives for our friends as commanded by Christ with a humble, loving heart.

Let's take a look at an example. A person who considers himself to be deeply Christian is given a task by his superior, who reviews the project, offers critique and asks for specific corrections.  If he were to be obedient, he would take the critique to heart and, out of love for his superior inspired by his love of Christ, would make the corrections as asked. Rather than submitting to the authority over him, however, he instead questions his superior and determines for himself those elements of the task which he desires to correct.

Through this one act of disobedience, this person has placed his own love of self over his love of neighbor, and in turn over his love of Christ. Additionally, what is the reaction of the superior?  Anger, aggrivation, frustration, all which will further deteriorate the relationship. It's a chain reaction that has been discussed by the doctors of the Church for centuries. St. Catherine of Siena's Dialogue says it best:  "self-love, which destroys charity and affection towards the neighbor, is the principle and foundation of every evil."  It's why obedience to our spiritual shepherds is unconditional (note the lack of any qualification in the quote from Lumen Gentium).

Obedience doesn’t just refer to the clergy or religious, either. Parents, teachers and those appointed leaders of various ministries and apostolates also deserve our full, loving obedience, as they serve in the role of "spiritual shepherd" for many of us as well.  Love of Christ, and his command to love our neighbor, demands it. “Let them follow the example of Christ,” continues Lumen Gentium, “who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief.”

May we all selflessly, humbly live in obedience to the Lord AND to His Church. 

Act of Love
O Lord God, I love you above all things
and I love my neighbor for your sake
because you are the highest, infinite and perfect
good, worthy of all my love.
In this love I intend to live and die.


Bill said...

Gina, you have a wonderful way of relating important issues that we face each day. This particular topic is dear to my heart because so many times it's at the crux of many problems we must deal with. If we truly live as Christ demands us "Love the Lord God with all our heart and all our soul, and Love our neighbor as we love ourself" then we would find a mutual charity among ourselves... and we would want to think of others FIRST, before ourselves. This also applies to your previous topic when you described Sally and Joe. What a wonderful world we can have when this is the case. God Bless you!

Gina said...

Hi Bill, thank you for reading, and thank you for your support of my work!

your comment is so true, my friend. This command that the Lord has given us, as you've stated in your comment, is indeed the formula for a perfect world--and it can be a reality--it's more important than ever before that we continue to work toward getting His message out, and I pray for it every day, as I'm quite certain you do as well.


Alba Fe said...

The beauty of obidience.

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