I’ve had several people send me messages and ask if I’m doing alright…because my blog has been quiet for a while. First of all, thank you. Your care and concern mean so much to me. Secondly, I’ve discovered, that silence isn’t always a bad thing.
I’ve sat down several times and began to write a blog. But my words seemed too judgmental and harsh, so I threw them away. With everything that’s going on in our country right now, it’s easy to look at others and find their faults. But doings so changes nothing. So I’ve tried to turn that eye inward and find what I can do in my little niche of the world to make things better.
I was reading in the book, Benedict’s Way, by Lonnie Collins Pratt and Father Daniel Homan, OSB, and was drawn over and over to the chapter on obedience. The book, based on The Rule of St. Benedict, is a hands-on approach to applying the Rule to everyday life.
I think there is something about the word “obedience” that immediately puts up a wall. I know it did with me. The word is defined as “compliance with an order, request, or law or submission to another’s authority.” It goes further to add, “observance of a monastic rule.” St. Benedict, in his Rule, says that the “first step of humility is unhesitating obedience.” (RB 5:1) And so…who are we called to be obedient to?
In the monastery or abbey, it’s easy to answer this question. But what about for you and for me? Let’s look further at the essence of obedience. In an abbey, for example, it’s essential for there to be rules and for the rules to be followed. There needs to be someone who enforces those rules. But it works both ways. While the monks need to be obedient to the Abbot, the Abbot must be obedient to the monks, by responding in a caring, loving manner. The same with the parent/child relationship. While parents raise their children to be obedient, they themselves must be obedient in ensuring the welfare of the children. In this way, we can see that the essence of obedience is in putting others needs in front of our own.
This does not mean blind submission to abuse or illegal activity. It means earnestly seeking the good of the other individual or group above my own. It means that obedience applies to everyone, not just those seeking the monastic life.
The Latin root of the word obedience is ob audire or to listen. To listen…that makes the word obedience a little easier to consider. Unfortunately, the word obedience has gotten a bad rap. Most people associate it with oppression or abuse. Many people even view obedience to God in a negative light, instead of seeing the freedom that comes with listening to his will.
To be obedient means to be selfless. It doesn’t mean to allow yourself to be abused or taken advantage of. By being selfless, a person looks to immediate needs of others, rather than focusing on their own comfort or gain. While it is easy to look outward and point to shortcomings in our society, I’m trying to stay focused on those areas where I fail at this…daily. My “rights” and defending myself are not always as important as the bigger picture around me.
Obedience is not without cost. Sometimes giving up things such as pride or being right are hard to swallow. I think of Mary, our Lord’s mother, as an example to follow. From the visit with the angel Gabriel when she answered, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” to her final recorded words, “Do whatever he tells you.“, Mary was a model of obedience, putting the needs of the world above her own and even above the well being of her child. Jesus, himself, showed us how letting loose of our earthly treasures, whether they are physical or emotional, can bring us treasures in his Father’s kingdom.
Father, in a world that quick to accuse and slow to confess, humble my heart and help me be obedient…to listen…and think of others before myself. I know I will fail again and again, and yet I ask you to continue to place upon my heart the desire to follow the example of your only son and his precious mother. Amen.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21