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Archive for the ‘obedience’ Category

Peace and Good Will

Thomas ColeThe Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1833–34

Thomas Cole
The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1833–34

“Glory to God in the highest

and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”   ~Luke 2: 14

Only those who obey God’s law can enjoy peace. Peace is tranquility, a tranquility that can be experienced as that one finds on a still sea – gentle, calm water.

peaceful water

The opposite of this peaceful scene would be wind and waves tossing one about here and there. Therefore, peace is the serenity of order. Order is established by God’s law and obedience to His will.

stormy sea

Peace for the soul would be experienced in the refreshment and repose it has in following God’s law and adhering to His will in spite of the struggles, challenges and sorrows that life offers.

This peace comes to men in “whom his favor rests”. God’s favor rests on those whose will is good and conforms to His. This “good will” is upright, directed sincerely and entirely to God. It is also good when it is docile. A docile will is ready to follow every inspiration of God’s will. Finally, a “good will” is resolute, promptly adhering to the will of God even when sacrifices are required or when obstacles and difficulties come.

A soul filled with peace and following the laws of God is a soul that gives glory to God.

(Divine Intimacy #33, Fr. Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalen, O.C.D.)

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St. Teresa of Jesus was particularly fond of the virtue of obedience. In her writings on setting up the foundations of the Reform she mentions her fondness for obedience, and she states that she did not know how to practice it until the nuns of the first Carmel of the Reform taught it to her. The nuns of the Carmel of St. Joseph in Medina del Campo possessed ‘many lofty virtues’ of which St. Teresa praises in her work titled The Foundations. (ICS Publications, The Collected Works of St. Teresa of Avila)

In chapter one of The Foundations, St. Teresa recounts an incident that occurred in the refectory one day. On the menu that day was a serving of cucumbers and her portion was thin and rotting. She called over one of the nuns to ‘test her obedience’. This nun was talented and intelligent. St. Teresa called her over and told her to ‘go and plant the cucumber in a little vegetable garden’ that the nuns had. The nun asked St. Teresa ‘if she should plant it upright or sideways’. St. Teresa told her to plant it sideways. The nun went out and planted it without giving any other thought to what was being asked of her, and knowing that the cucumber will do nothing but dry up.  ‘She planted it out of obedience, she blinded natural reason so as to believe that what she did was very appropriate.’ 

Our obedience to to be like this. It should have these same qualities: prompt, without questioning or reasoning. The nun did ask a question, but this was only for clarification. Obedience requires humility. In addition to humility, obedience requires a vigilant watch for humility’s enemy.

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Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Mt 11: 28-30)
Jesus is truly the living way. He is asking us to become His disciples, to accept His doctrines. For He truly is meek and humble and accordingly does not wish to impose burdens which we cannot bear ourselves. His yoke is easy and it is not a heavy burden.
Jesus took on the yoke of obedience. He was obedient to the Father, to the Father’s will. This yoke of obedience He bore unto death.
Obedience before all. As Seculars we “promise to tend toward evangelical perfection in the spirit of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience”. We make this promise not as an end in itself but as a means; therefore, we too should be keeping in mind the end- which is perfection. Obedience is most important in the light of perfection. 
When we are under obedience we are not free to do what we wish. We are to set aside our preferences, our tastes, our desires and even those things that repulse us and to consider just one thing – God wills it.
When someone has been legitimately elected as the superior or as the one in authority over us, from the fact that this person accepts, God communicates in an invisible manner His authority to this person. When we obey this person we must keep in mind that it is God who is the end of our obedience and not this person. Therefore, when the superior commands it, it is God who commands.
St. John of the Cross in his Precautions offers some particularly important advice in the matter of obedience in his second counsel against the devil:
“Let the second precaution be that you always look on the superior as though on God, no matter who he happens to be, for he takes God’s place. And note that the devil, humility’s enemy, is a great and crafty meddler in this area. Much profit and gain come from considering the superior in this light, but serious loss and harm lie in not doing so. Watch, therefore, with singular care that you not dwell on your superior’s character, mode of behavior, ability, or any other methods of procedure, for you will so harm yourself as to change your obedience from divine to human, being motivated only by the visible traits of the superior, and not by the invisible God whom you serve through him.
Your obedience is vain and all the more fruitless in the measure that you allow the superior’s unpleasant character to annoy you or his good and pleasing manners to make you happy. For I tell you that by inducing religious to consider these modes of conduct, the devil has ruined a vast number of them in their journey toward perfection. Their acts of obedience are worth little in God’s sight, since they allow these considerations to interfere with obedience.”
Whenever we regard the person who is commanding or judge this person’s acts, or whenever we are looking at the human elements (qualities and defects) we do not have the qualities of obedience.
On a final note, those who are in positions of authority over others ought to show the way. That is, they should only teach. St. Blanc of St. Bonnet says “to govern is to teach others to govern themselves”. The example of obedience Jesus Christ gave us is one always worth pondering.

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The way to combat the Second Enemy.

The devil more commonly deceives spiritual persons under the appearance of good rather than evil. The devil knows that spiritual persons will not reach out and choose an obvious evil. “Thus you should always be suspicious of what appears good, especially when not obliged by obedience.”

St. John of the Cross wants us to do the right thing and in order to be safe in such a matter he counsels souls in three ways regarding the wiles and deceits of the devil.

First, he counsels that those striving for perfection should never take upon themselves, without the command of obedience, “any work – apart from the obligations of your state – however good and full of charity it may seem, whether for yourself or for anyone else inside or outside the house.” We should always strive to be obedient to our duties that correspond to our state in life.

Obedience
is what is being asked; in little things as well as big. To neglect being governed by obedience in all things you will soon find yourself in error. The devil loves to deceive in this way by playing on our pride, you know, I am right!

The second counsel is on a matter that many fall into to their own loss and harm. It is “that you always look on the superior as though on God, no matter who he happens to be, for he takes God’s place.” This can apply to any one who is regarded as our superior: a boss, spouse, religious superior, bishop, or priest. To dwell on their character flaws, behavior, ability or their methods will do you harm because you will change your obedience from being motivated by visible (human) traits of the superior and not be basing your obedience on the invisible God whom you serve.

The devil can induce us to dwell on the things that others do to annoy us or to let their good qualities please us and make us happy. He does this because it interferes with our obedience.

The third counsel is “that you ever seek with all your heart to humble yourself in word and in deed, rejoicing in the good of others as if it were your own, desiring that they be given precedence over you in all things; and this you should do wholeheartedly.” This is a good practice and will increase charity within our soul. Always remember that the devil’s aim is to cool charity in souls and in this way wins them over.Overcome evil with good and “try to practice this more with those who least attract you.”

Finally, “ever prefer to be taught by all rather than desire to teach even the least of all.”

God wants obedience more than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22)

(Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, ICS Publications, The Precautions)

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