Monday, December 28, 2009

On Obedience and Freedom

"St. Maurus instantly left his work to answer the call of his Superior, St. Benedict. The other monks all had something to finish first."
-St. John Vianney, On Self Denial (Sp.).

If we are to follow Christ, who attended to the needs of all, we must in fact ourselves attend to the needs of all; this feat is nothing short of sanctity. To follow Christ is to be like Christ, who was born of Mary in the lowliest and humblest of circumstances, in a manger surrounded by animals. Following Christ is to be truly free. Some say that freedom is that ability to do what you want. Real freedom is the ability to follow Christ is all things, for it is in Christ that we are truly free. Silly people! Do you really think that if God is love (1 John), he will give us restrictions and prohibit our freedom? God calls us to greatness, but we don't find greatness in earthly things and things which restrict our freedom, though many people think they can find freedom in these things. God calls us to live in freedom, and real freedom is the ability to follow Christ in whatever He asks of us. Are we truly free if we place limitations on God's love, and we don't let God into every aspect of our life?

We are to be obedient to the good God, just as the Christ child was obedient to His parents, and Mary was obedient to God. In some of the earliest stories of the Gospel, there is a lesson learned related to obedience. In the Annunciation, where Gabriel visited Mary and told her that she was to give birth to Jesus, son of the Most High God, it took a great deal of obedience on Mary's part to see "Let it be done according to your word." When Jesus was found by his parents in the temple after being lost, the Scriptures tell us "From that moment on He was obedient to His parents." When we are obedient to God, we are open to His divine will, which makes us freer than anything else can. Once again, I challenge you: if freedom is the ability to do whatever you want, then why is it that many of the things we think make us "free", in fact, ensnare us? Contraception is ensnaring, as well as pornography, adultery, and promiscuous sex. These things are things of addiction, not freedom. Complete obedience to God allows us to be truly free to follow His will.

But we are obedient to people at the same time; God puts people in our lives, holy people, that we are obedient to, to help us be obedient to God. We are obedient to our spouses only because God says to be obedient, because that obedience is an imitation of obedience to God. St. Paul brings this up very nicely in Ephesians 5, that through marriage spouses are called to be obedient to the other. Ephesians 5 is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible because it gives us a model of the Church as a family, and it gives us a model of what Christian marriage is supposed to look like (Christo centric!).

For the clergy, they take a promise of obedience to a bishop, not because they are giving up their freedom, but rather, because they desire to be truly free to do the will of God in all things. Who would willingly give away their freedom? Nobody! It is the trust in God which allows an ordained man to offer himself to God for the sake of His Church, and for the freedom which comes from that. It is a paradox: becoming obedient makes you free. But it is in obedience that we truly become free.

May God bless you during this Christmas season.

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