“He that sacrifices to God his property by alms-deeds, his honor by bearing insults, or his body by mortifications, by fasts and penitential rigours, offers to Him a part of himself and of what belongs to him; but he that sacrifices to God his will, by obedience, gives to Him all that he has, and can say: Lord, having given you my will, I have nothing more to give you.”Saint Alphonsus Liguori
Obedience, rightly ordered, is the fruit of love. Think about it. How easy is it to do something for someone we love and how heavy does it feel to do something for someone solely out of obligation? One is a joy, the other a burden. One has the capacity to inspire us to be bold and courageous, the other pulls on us down to effeminacy and smallness of soul.
Obedience, as a virtue, is a matter of justice. It is to give someone that which is their due. We honor our father and mother because of the gift of life they have given us. We pay our taxes out of duty to support our country’s government. We worship God and follow His commandments because we acknowledge that He is our creator and desires only our good. These things, however good, can feel heavy on us. We can become resentful of the realities of the hierarchies in which we exist, but when we do so, I think we are looking at things backwards. What if we rejoiced in our place in the world? Does that not sound like freedom?
Obedience has no joy if it does not come from a place of humility. If done out of the burden of obligation, our obedience is nothing more than white-knuckling, and that is not virtue. Remember that freedom in knowing who you are, who you are not and embracing that both are okay? It’s frustrating on the one hand, but if I can get to the point where I’m willing to let go of my rejection of reality in order to rest in the serenity of accepting what is, then obedience becomes easy. In fact, I would argue, one can’t help but have their obedience spill over from a place of joy and gratitude! Thank goodness I didn’t have to raise me, I don’t have the worries of the government, and I can defer the hardest things to God because they truly are beyond me!
Obedience often has the gut-punch of living from a place of “I should.” But “should” implies a debt, as if there was an “or else” attached to it. Like we have to honor our end just to make things square. There is no freedom in this victim “should”, only guilt and condemnation. Obedience that comes from love, that comes from the heart of “self-gift” is the decision to gift our free will to another. “I choose” to honor, love, serve, worship etc. How free! How light! How lovely.
Every day I want to honor who I am, who I purposely have been made not to be, and allow the love of both to pour out of me in a resounding “YES”. Is that not the Magnificat? Is that not the power of Mary’s fiat? Today let’s glory in the beauty of who we ARE.