By Fr. Roy Cimagala
THE two are good and important and are, in fact, necessary in our life. But if we have to choose between them, we have to choose obedience.
We are reminded of this truth of our Christian faith in the First Book of Samuel where the prophet Samuel told Saul the king: “Doth the Lord desire holocausts and victims, and not rather that the voice of the Lord should be obeyed? For obedience is better than sacrifices: and to hearken rather than to offer the fat of rams.” (15,22)
While Saul obeyed in part what was commanded of him, he gave in to some human considerations that diluted that obedience of his. In the end, that disobedience constituted some kind of rebellion against God.
We have to be wary of this choice between obedience and sacrifice, and should have no doubt as to what should be given priority when a choice between the two should be made. Thus, we need to understand better the true nature of obedience, appreciate its inner nuances, grow in our conviction of its necessity, fruitfulness and its intimate relation to our freedom.
Nowadays, this virtue is grossly misunderstood, its caricatures better known than its objective reality. It’s generally known to be a burden rather than a liberating constituent element in our life. We need to reclaim its proper place in our personal and collective lives, because without it we would actually undermine our very own humanity.
Yes, this virtue is indispensable in our life. We are actually created to obey, because first and last we need to obey God, and then also, we need to obey those who have some authority over us in our earthly life.
That’s because we can’t help but live with others, and there will always be others with some authority over us—parents, teachers, public officials, even policemen, etc.—whom we have to obey.
In short, we cannot outgrow the need for obedience. The moment we feel we can do without it, we start heading the wrong way in our life. A lot of evils come as a consequence. All kinds of disorder follow, from the material to the moral and spiritual aspects. But if we obey, we would also generate a lot of good.
We have to do everything to polish and sharpen our sense of obedience, especially as we head toward maturity since the years tend to deaden our need for it. We have to be more aware of those factors that tend to dull our duty to obey.
In fact, the older we get, and the more accomplished and experienced we feel we are, the sharper should be our sense of obedience and more attentive to its finer demands.
Otherwise, we would simply spoil whatever achievements we have gained. It’s like we are gaining ground on the outside but losing ground on the inside, an echo of “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.” A terrible collapse would just be a matter of time.
We need to be strongly reminded about this, since we have to contend with formidable undermining forces—culture, lifestyle, media, the scandalous examples of many in politics, business, and even in the church. We have to be ready to do continuing constructive battle of peace and love in this area.
The model for all this is Christ who frequently said, “My food is to do the will of my Father.” And he did so all the way to the cross. Thus, St. Paul said that Christ was obedient until death.