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Obedience – Part 1

It’s been interesting during the coronavirus crisis that people have been asking me if I am bored. A number had speculated that I don’t have much to do. There are no public Masses. The rectory is closed. Actually, I’ve been as busy as I’ve ever been. We are trying to look ahead. I have had conversations with Parish Staff, the Finance Council and Parish Leadership. We are looking ahead and planning 3 to 6 months down the road. There are items to discuss. Decisions have to be made. Communiqués need to be written, edited and sent. Then there was that “Holy Week, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday” thing to contend with. In the wake of Holy Week, the workload has stabilized somewhat.

I have some time to read. There were a few books sitting on my coffee table that I can get to. One of the books is a re-read of The Rule of Benedict. The other book was given to me by a parishioner. It is a neat, little, classic by Saint Francis De Sales entitled The Idea of Loving God. Let me start with De Sales this week. Specifically I’d like to talk a bit on the topic of obedience.

DeSales writes about the topic of obedience in Chapter 4 of his book The Art of Loving God. The chapter is entitled “Obey Those Placed in Authority Over You. St. Francis writes that obedience is due to superiors whom God has set over. This obedience is just. It is also necessary. DeSales goes further to say that we not only owe superiors obedience. We need to offer our will, understanding, approval and esteem for what is actually commanded.

This might sound difficult. It is. Not everyone is capable of this type of obedience. This is the obedience of the perfect. It is a pure gift from God. It is acquired through hard work and hard labor. It involves a series of actions often repeated and done in earnest which forms a habit.

DeSales says that obedience has three conditions. The first condition is acceptance of the things that are commanded. We should actually look forward to being commanded. It forms a kind of training. It also relieves us of the greater burden of responsibility that the superior must carry. The second condition of obedience is promptitude. This is related to spiritual sloth or sadness. In theological language, sloth is called “spiritual sadness.” DeSales writes that this sadness seldom happens when acts are performed properly and diligently. Prompt obedience also forms spiritual muscles. It makes it easier to yield to prompt obedience. The third condition of obedience is perseverance. It is not enough to accept the command and execute it for a certain amount of time. one needs persevere in it. We read this in Matthew 10:22, Matthew 24:13, and 2 Timothy 4:7-8. This kind of perseverance “wins the crown.”

I’ll continue on the topic of obedience next week. Besides the writings of Francis deSales, I’ll include some ideas from St. Benedict.

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