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Obey is a Four Letter Word

By Albert E. Hughes
April 25th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Believe, then obey, then understand.  To know and not to do, is not yet to know. Obedience?  Must I lose control of my life?  The short answer is "No."

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In the preceding articles, "Paradigm Pondering-Why They Don't Believe" and "Paradox Proposal-the Narrow Gate to Spirit", we rejected three of four paradigms- materialism, positivism, and rationalism- which place false boundaries on our thinking about God.  The forth, relativism, will be rejected shortly.  Also, in "Paradox Proposal", we raised the possibility of a personal relationship with God.

Now, a personal relationship requires some extent of obedience to the desires of another (your spouse, friends, etc.) and to Another (the Lord of the universe.)  However limited or complete, obedience is the key ingredient which promotes peace or, in its absence, conflict or loss of relationship. 

Why would anyone accept the fact of God, then engage in conscious conflict with Him, i. e. disobey His will?  Why finesse the possibility of developing a personal relationship with God? 

Yet many do just that, whether unaware or complicit!  To some people obedience is a four letter word.  "I have rights and I am free.  Your truth may not be my truth and you have no right to impose your truth on me." 

"No one can tell me what to do!"

Implicitly (they probably haven't analyzed their motives or effects of their attitude) they deny existence of absolute truth and they deny any call of obedience to absolute truth.  Truth is whatever they choose. It's intellectual anarchy!  It's relativism!  At best, they are cafeteria Christians, picking and choosing what they like, ignoring the rest.

But consider; nowhere in Scripture is it written, "Come along and do as you please!" 

Those who would be obedient still have to struggle with two questions in a quest of relationship with God: how can I really know the will of God and if I discover that, must I always obey?  I don't want to lose control of my life! 

Obedience to the will of God need be approached at two levels: 1) the general will of God for all and 2) His specific will for a particular individual: perhaps you!  At the first level, God reveals His general will in the commandments of Christ as carried forward by Scripture and the living Tradition of the Catholic Church (which Jesus founded in his Apostles.

The mission of the Catholic Church is to teach Jesus Christ -not "modernize" in sync with cultural error!  You can know His general will for you. 

Living in obedience to Scripture and Catholic Tradition is a lifelong effort of application with vigilance and perseverance.  Just live the most authentic Christian life you can as you inquire, listen and learn.

 And yes, at this first level, a personal relationship with God is possible.  "They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them." (John14:21)

This scriptural passage reveals the pathway and hope of a personal relationship with Jesus.  It is all about obedience.  The commandments of Jesus are just that; not suggestions, but commandments. Not pick a few, but keep them.  Not intellectual interest in them, but love expressed through obedience to them.

The word "commandment" is a problem to some.  If you must, instead of "commandment", substitute "keys to joy and eternal life." 

Feel better, now? 

Obedience?  Must I lose control of my life?  The short answer is "No."

 But here is a more complete answer, offered by Saint Jane Frances de Chantal, religious: ".there is another martyrdom; the martyrdom of love.  Here God keeps his servants and handmaids in this present life so that they may labor for him, and He makes them both martyrs and confessors.  Yield yourself fully to God, and you will find out! 

Divine love takes its sword to the hidden recesses of our inmost soul and divides us from ourselves: from the moment when we commit ourselves unreservedly to God, until our last breath.  I am speaking, of course, of great-souled individuals who keep nothing back for themselves, but instead are faithful in love. 

Our Lord does not intend this martyrdom for those who are weak in love and perseverance.  Such people he lets continue on their mediocre way, so that they will not be lost to him; he never does violence to our free will."

If you truly commit to obey His specific will meant for yourself alone, He will move in and take over!  Yes, He will, to invite you to participate in His work as a junior associate.  Turn you into some kind of a yes man or robot?  To take away our freedom of will is to destroy our creative personhood, zenith of his creation.

"The glory of God is man, fully alive!" (Irenaus)  God will not destroy His glory.

Returning to St Jane, "Yield yourself fully to God, and you will find out!   Divine love takes its sword to the hidden recesses of our inmost soul and divides us from ourselves: from the moment when we commit ourselves unreservedly to God, until our last breath."  T

The key words there are yield, fully, and unreservedly, the avenue of the saints.  This is the second level, total commitment to obedience.  To what extent are you willing to obey? 

How do you know what to obey?

Here are a few guidelines.

First; "Yield fully to God," i.e., commit to unreserved obedience in prayer and mean it!  Then apply your gifts and whatever passions you have for service.  He who would be the greatest shall be the servant of all.  Start with service opportunities present and available where you are today.  Then pray, pray, pray; study, listen and learn; most of all pay attention!  What is going on in your life?  What are the signs?

"most of us are interested in 'signs'.through what we read.through what others say.through what we see.  God speaks quietly ..  In retrospect, we can see that He has given us a little nudge through a friend, a book, or what we see as failure.  If we remain alert, then slowly they piece together a consistent whole, and we begin to feel how God is guiding us."  (Pope Benedict XVI)

In the experience of the author, the Lord may actually speak to you on rare occasions, if He pleases or if you need a swift kick in the right direction!    That brings us to repeat Saint Jane, again. 

"I am speaking, of course, of great-souled individuals who keep nothing back for themselves, but instead are faithful in love.  Our Lord does not intend this martyrdom for those who are weak in love and perseverance.  Such people he lets continue on their mediocre way, so that they will not be lost to him; he never does violence to our free will."

Meditate on Jane's words. Most Christians will prove to be mediocre, "weak in love and perseverance."

But you!  You can decide to move toward strength "in love and perseverance," even to the "heroic." 

Believe, then obey, then understand.  To know and not to do, is not yet to know.
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Lt Col Hughes, USAF (Ret), M.S., M.M., Certificated in Spiritual Direction, is the author of Paradise Commander, available at Amazon.com.  Get the full story there!

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