Living obediently was a topic of yesterday’s retreat conference. Obedience is one of our monastic promises. But what does it mean today?
To obey comes from the Latin, obedire, to listen. In practice, what that means is to listen to – obey – God. We do so by reading Scripture, walking in nature and listening to one another, among other things.
But it’s not easy. Why? Because when we listen – really listen – we learn what God’s creation needs. We learn what our peers need of us. We learn what God needs of us. And when we understand, we are called to act.
So our monastic promise is not to blind obedience but to listening, and doing, with love and respect. It is labor. It is about, as Michael Casey, OSB, says, “delivering us from deference we give to the impulses of self-will.”
Obedience is about relationship. It is about moving beyond self into community and the world. It is about responding unhesitatingly, cheerfully, lovingly and considerately. It is about being available.
Living the promise of obedience is a day-to-day work … but it is not something we live alone.
We live it with Christ. And we experience the incredible freedom and joy that comes from such a life, where we are delivered from the “deference we give to the impulses of self-will.”
A great example comes from the classroom, where preschoolers learn that impulses of self-will must be constrained. That is, they must keep their hands and feet to themselves. They must share. They must wait their turn. When they do these things – control their impulses of self-will – they enjoy right relationship with me.
The upshot? More freedom! They enjoy special jobs. Their special requests are more likely to be granted.
And the students who will not obey? They must continue to work on their self control. They will not gain special privileges until they can keep their hands to themselves and honor the needs of others.
The practice of obedience is the practice that underscores right relationship with one another, God’s creation, and God.
We have the freedom to NOT listen, to not obey. But in the end, that disobedience cramps our freedom.
Obedience opens the door to not being shackled by anything at all. And Christ is there to show us the way.