Sunday, August 16, 2015

Anything Goes: The Lost Virtue of Obedience

“Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:17)

Let’s face it.  We live in a world where pretty much anything goes.  We are taught to be independent, which is not a bad thing, we are to think for ourselves, which again is not a bad thing, but the consequences of these two things is that we ignore the wisdom of the past, of our elders, and make the same mistakes over and over again just to achieve what we think will make us happy.  Again, anything goes.  Kids don’t listen to their parents and slowly we grow to forget the virtue of obedience.  Obedience is almost anathema in society because we somehow believe being obedient is a sign of weakness.  Yet obedience is one of the constants throughout the life of Jesus and his mother Mary.  Through history, the great saints achieved eternal glory through obedience.  In the life of the Church, priests, deacons, and religious promise obedience to their superiors.  We do this because we want to be submissive to the will of God in our lives and allow Him to take us where he needs us and not to where we want to be.  Where He needs us is most often where we find happiness and peace.

St. Paul tells the Ephesians quite frankly in the second reading that we are living evil days.  If you read the news and listen to doomsday prophets you would think that St. Paul is talking about 2015 and not the mid-first century.  Now I must confess that I don’t subscribe to the all those that say the days we were are currently living are the most evil yet.  I like to look at the good happening in the world, but I do recognize that yes there is plenty of evil as well.  But you can apply St. Paul’s observation to pretty much any point in history since he wrote those words.  Today we see the degradation of the family, the persecution of Christians, the ravages of poverty in places that are forgotten, and I can go on but make no mistake that all of us can work to make this world a bit better if only we listen to the will of God.  We cannot live in ignorance, Paul tells us, we have to stand out and be exemplary Christians.  And in this weekend when we celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we look to her as the model of what it means to be an exemplary Christian who helps us in our journey by teaching us the virtue of obedience to God.

This past Friday, the Church celebrated the feast of the martyr St. Maximilian Kolbe (for the sake of brevity in this homily, do yourself a favor and google his incredibly life and death).  St. Max was very devout to Mary Immaculate, our patroness, and writes beautifully on obedience and how it shaped the lives of Jesus and Mary:

Obedience is the one and the only way of wisdom and prudence for us to offer glory to God…Scripture set obedience as the theme of [Christ’s] life, repeatedly declaring that he came into the world to do his Father’s will.

Let us love our loving Father with all our hearts. Let our obedience increase that love, above all when it requires us to surrender our own will. Jesus Christ crucified is our sublime guide toward growth in God’s love.

We will learn this lesson more quickly through the Immaculate Virgin, whom God has made the dispenser of his mercy. It is beyond all doubt that Mary’s will represents to us the will of God himself. By dedicating ourselves to her we become in her hands instruments of God’s mercy even as she was such an instrument in God’s hands. We should let ourselves be guided and led by Mary and rest quiet and secure in her hands. She will watch out for us, provide for us, answer our needs of body and spirit; she will dissolve all our difficulties and worries.

Today we gather for Mass in obedience to the Lord’s command.  We are fed and strengthened by the bread of life, the flesh of the Son of Man.  This Eucharist helps us to follow the will of God more perfectly, to live the life of Christ more perfectly, and to live exemplary Christian lives more perfectly.  Yes, obedience is hard (take it from a priest), but the rewards for being obedient to God are eternal.  We entrust ourselves to Mary Immaculate who will “watch out for us” and who teaches us so perfectly the virtue of total obedience to the will of God.