Saturday, March 08, 2008

Obedience

A Lightning Meditation from Msgr Knox. Why? Because I'm not very good at obedience and it struck home. It's not as hard as charity to be sure, but it's no walk in the park either.

An age like ours, which treasures the smart sayings of the children, may be a little disconcerted over our Lord's biography. "I must needs be in the place which belongs to my Father" -- was that the only memorable thing he said before turning thirty-three? And the church, characteristically, will not let the story end there. "He went down with them to Nazareth, and lived in subjection to them"; the moral is not, after all, to be in favour of truancy. The exception proves the rule; one gesture of freedom is the preface to long years of dependence; the silence has been broken only to be resumed.

Of all the Christian virtues, none is more admired by the world at large than that of obedience; none is less admired for its own sake. Discipline is valuable in the school, in the army, even (after a fashion) in the workshop; obedience, the sacrifice of personality, is therefore necessary as a means to an end. What we admire for its own sake is not obedience, but freedom, originality, independence of character. If the Church preaches obedience, it is doubtless for her own ends. . . .But it is not so. "The Roman line, the Roman order" -- that is only a detail.

Much can be (and has been) said about the spiritual advantages which result from learning the habit of obedience; as, that when you have to obey out of necessity you will be able to do it without grumbling, or that it saves you from the distracting experience of having to make up your own mind about a hundred matters of detail. But all these are still side-issues; the real point about obedience is that it is a virtue on its own account. It is humility strung up to concert pitch by the fact that you are obeying a fellow-mortal whose judgment, humanly speaking, you have no particular reason to trust. You do it precisely to imitate the condescension of the God who was obedient to his own creatures. And, doing it, you become not just a more useful tool, but a better man.