As a priest I am often asked what is the most important aspect of the spiritual life. It is a question that does not really have a single answer. However, a very big part of growing in holiness is learning to be obedient to the will of God. As always, good habits and disciplines in the spiritual life begin with learning them in the physical life first. Obedience to the will of God is learnt primarily through learning to be obedient as a child – to our parents, elders etc. This does not mean that it is wrong to question what ‘authority figures’ in our lives ask us to do. However, the way of questioning will indicate whether or not we have a disposition for obedience or rebelliousness.
We normally develop a disposition for obedience early in life or not at all! It seems that it is very difficult to change a rebellious temperament once it has established itself in our lives. It is not impossible, but it requires a lot of work and discipline to change it.
The power of obedience can be seen in the effectiveness of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. It is His ‘sacrifice of obedience’ that undoes the work of the disobedience of our forbears in the Garden of Eden. That which is lost through the disobedience of Adam is regained, to an even greater and more perfect degree, through the obedience of Christ.
The life of holiness ultimately depends upon the degree to which we are willing to submit our lives in obedience to God’s will. This may sound like the very opposite of true freedom, but it is not. The opposite of freedom is the exercise of our freewill over and against God’s will for our lives. True freedom comes in submitting our lives to the will of God and so enabling the Holy Spirit the freedom to guide us in the ways of God that will bring us to perfection.
Obedience is both a grace and a discipline. The first requires surrendering our wills to the will of God. The second is just a lot of sweat and tears.
Do I struggle with being obedient to my parents? Do I struggle in being obedient to God? How hard have I tried to develop the discipline of obedience in my life?
Lord Jesus, it was not easy for you to be obedient to your Father’s will. Help me to learn the way of discipline in my life so that I can grow in the grace of obedience.