Saturday, September 19, 2009

Enigma of Obedience

When St. Augustine in his treatise "De Civitate Dei" (the City of God) talks about the life of pious obedience as "the mother and guardian of all virtue" (14.2), we are then not surprised why the Church and religious orders have given it prime importance. For the religious clergy and congregations, it is the main of the 3 vows or public promises. The one public avowal of the Diocesan or secular clergy at the time of holy Ordination is obedience to their Bishop, though poverty and chastity are presupposed in pledges made through other contracts. In the Roman Catholic Church priests stay single for life.

At the momentous and decisive event of our salvation by the passion and death of Jesus on the cross, He prayed in a solemn tone of obedience to His Heavenly Father: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, let your will be done, not mine" (Lk. 22:42). So He became the victor by the obedience of the cross. He also demonstrates how we may solve hopeless situations by a life of prayer and union with God.

Let's go back to history from the very beginnings: the pride of Lucifer or Satan with his angels who refused obedience and was cast to hell (cf. Rev. 12:7). The story of our first parents Adam and Even who were driven out of Paradise because they followed the devil's enticements to disobey God (pls. refer to Gen. 3:1-24). How many vocations have been lost through disobedience! Learn from history. You regret too late when you reach the point of no return. No wonder the book of Proverbs has this: Vir obediens loquetur victoriam, "the obedient man speaks victory" (Prov. 21:28). The word obedient is derived from the Latin ob and audire which means "to listen to". Such is the example of Our Blessed Mother Mary who always listened to and pondered on God's words. "Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Lk. 2:19). Of course, it is not simply listening but likewise fulfilling God's will, which naturally also implies obeying and respecting legitimate authority which is also willed by God for the good of family, society and nations (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). It is also equally true that one cannot obey if he or she does not care to listen to proper instructions. Before you learn to command you must first learn to obey.

In the two cities spoken of by St. Augustine (the city of God and the earthly city), we may say that the earthly city tends to depreciate the value of obedience in favor of a false sense of freedom that ends in its own nemesis or destruction. It is characterized by its affectation of total independence and self-sufficiency. It presents itself as the very antithesis of the life of God. God's infallible word warns and assures us that at the very end of life when we face God's judgment everyone gets what he or she deserves (cf. Mt.25:31) 25:31-46).

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