Obeying Freely

On the 4th of July 1776, America claimed its independence from Great Britain and democracy was born. From then on it became “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World located in New York Harbor has become an enduring universal symbol of freedom and liberty. Moreover through America’s economic supremacy extending to almost every country in the globe, it has also succeeded to market to the world its brand of liberty founded on respect for one’s rights. Democratic principles have now become like the air we breath and we hardly noticed that just bout five hundred years ago people lived under the shadow of tyranny and subjection.

Today we are enjoying the blessings of freedom and the exercise of our personal autonomy. But all is not well because many do not know how to use it; people actually abuse it. The world has become excessively individualistic where people prize its ability to decide for themselves on what is right and wrong, on the true and good. They just do what they like because they feel like to do it. The world frowns on restrictions and control. It is suspicious of authority and rules. It simply wants to be free and uninhibited. Consequently, obedience is not a popular virtue these days.

From the pop culture being promoted, I get the impression that if a young person is disobedient and rebellious he or she is being fashionable. The individual who sticks up for his or her rights is the smart one. To disobey is portrayed as cool in story or song. Rebellion is celebrated. Ours has become a self-centered society only good in issuing orders but not in obeying them. We seem to value obedience only when we demand it from others.

Obedience may be considered ‘old fashioned,’ still it remains one of the pillars of inner strength for those who exercise it in their lives. In the family, if this virtue is practiced, it creates better relationship. It establishes a strong bond and cohesion to the family members when children obediently submit to their parents because as they say ‘parents know best.’ One of the beautiful stories told to me as a boy was the famous myth of Icarus and Daedalus. Since Daedalus was a master craftsman, he made wings for himself and his son, Icarus, so that they could escape from the tower they were imprisoned. Before their escape, Daedalus cautioned his son not to fly so close to the sun lest the wax that held the wings together should melt. But he disobeyed his father’s advice and thus fell to his death. Youngsters would do well if they follow their parents’ advice.

In organizations, the practice of obedience ca also be very helpful. The military would maintain its chain of command if obedience were kept. Even in the corporate world, obedience can make the company strong and united in pursuing one common goal in developing its competitive advantage. Obedience is also important in government. The people must necessarily obey and respect their leaders as their authority comes from God. Problems arise when arrogance set in. When leaders do not listen to each other and continue to ‘fight’ for their own rights and their ‘own interests;’ or they keep ‘politicking’ to the neglect of their duties as public servants. This would certainly bring down the spirit of the people and weaken their trust on their leaders.

Obedience is also the virtue that Christians must practice towards the Church on matters of faith and morals. The Church has been endowed by God with the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the office of the Magisterium in the person of the Pope. The individual Christian is then, encourage to put his or her trust in the guidance of the Church who can surely lead him or her towards the path of righteousness. The Church becomes a sacrament of salvation.

There is real joy in the practice of obedience. In the words of St. Francis de Sales “obedience is the consecration of the heart.” The heart is consecrated in seeking the will of God in all things. It consists of our free offering of our will to God after the compelling example of Jesus. Christ chose to give up His life than his obedience because knowing that it was to the Father that He was giving up His will. Like Christ we have also the option to obey in freedom. The greatest motive for such an act is love. We need to surrender ourselves freely out of love to the God who is love.

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