…obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age (Mt 28:20).
The virtue of obedience invites us to listen to God’s inviting, appealing, and challenging call in the events that happen to us day by day. It facilitates surrender to God’s loving and guiding will and tempers any stubborn resistance we may feel.
What we hear is neither an audio recording nor a booming voice from on high. Rather we assess in stillness and prayer the meaning of the directives we receive, listening to them with as few distractions as possible.
To seek God’s wisdom and will for us here-and-now enables us to adopt obedient dispositions of trust and surrender. Instead of opting for a disobedient stance of resistance and refusal, we strive to obey God with our intelligence, feelings, and intuitions; with our learning and experience; with our prayerful, scientific, practical, and aesthetic attributes.
Obedience draws us beyond superficial interpretations regarding what God’s will for us might be. We reflect on the details of daily life in relation to what God asks of us now and in the days to come.
This stance of listening opens us to the obvious as well as the hidden meanings of the natural, cultural, and historical events that influence us.
Obedience gives us the courage to follow God’s call wherever it leads. The path may be easy or difficult, familiar or challenging, but, with the help of grace, we choose not to deviate from it. We reject whatever diminishes our response to the Father’s will disclosed in the situations in which we find ourselves. Our delight is to say with Mary, Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word (Lk 1:38) and with Jesus, …let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want (Mt 26:39).
The grace of enlightened appraisal enables us to transcend the disobedient inclinations that may continue to influence us due to our drives to seek power, pleasure, and possession as ends in themselves. Only when we resist the demeaning results of disobedience can we restore the love we owe the Lord and reanimate the service we offer in his name: By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments (1 Jn 5:2).
Listening obediently to the revelations of the Father’s will in and behind all that happens to us enables us to move beyond the limited context of our own willful desires to the broader horizon of communion with the people of God, no longer burdened by self-centered decisions and demands.
Instead of focusing on what we want when we want it, we ask in humility what the Father wants of us. We seek to imitate Christ who became obedient to the point of death (Phil 2:8).
Obedience of this depth becomes life-changing. We listen to Christ speaking in the common ways of liturgy, word and sacrament rather than to listening only to ideological opinions, plans, and projects that promote our own interests.
We respect the divinely illuminated insights found in Holy Scripture and the Christian classics.
We honor contemplation as the ground of action, and we test our aspirations in the light of the Holy Spirit’s inspirations.
Faith in Christ’s presence and in his way of speaking in each surrendered heart gives rise to respectful dialogue and the assurance that we share the same humble desire to make God’s will manifest not only in our life but also for the well-being of all believers and sincere seekers.
Living in this posture of obedience allows us to see the Church as a kind of master listener, helping us to follow the will of God under all circumstances. Rather than listening only to partial views of reality, the Church listens to the truths, teachings, and traditions that emanate from thousands of years of obedient presence to God’s word.
Abiding in that word guarantees that we will enjoy with Christians everywhere the unity, peace, and serenity that can only be ours when we listen together to the Father’s will without rejecting respectful disclosures of opposing feelings and ideas.
In such an atmosphere of mutual respect, we participate with candor and courage in the unfolding of history in both our personal and our communal lives.
We resist the forces of disobedience and opt instead for the obedience that enabled the Son to fulfill the Father’s plan for our salvation. We uphold the truth of why he lived and died for our salvation. This conviction must always be at the core of our call to true discipleship, and so we pray: