Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Correct Understanding of Obedience

Furthermore, from the word of God we learn that the virtue of obedience is more positive than negative.  Here too, with the passing of time and with the prevailing ascetic interest over the mysteric and kerygmatic, obedience is above all seen as a negative virtue or one of denial.  Its pre-eminence among the virtues is derived from the importance of the good that is renounced through it, that is, one's own will.  This good is greater than all the exterior things one renounces through poverty, greater than one's body, renounced through chastity.  But in biblical terms, the positive aspect - to do the will of God - is more important than the negative aspect - not to do one's own will.  Jesus says: 'Not my will but thine be done' (the emphasis being on the second part); 'My food is to do the will of the Father!' and, again, 'Here I am!  I am coming to do your will' (HEB 10:2).  Salvation, in fact, comes from doing the will of God, not from not doing one's own will.  In the 'Our Father' we ask that 'Thy will be done'; we are asking for something positive.  In the Scriptures we read that God wants obedience, not sacrifice (cf. 1 S 15:22; Heb 10:5-7).  We know, nonetheless, that he also wants to sacrifice in the case of Christ and that he wants it from us too... The explanation lies in the fact that of the two things, one is the means, the other is the end.  God wants obedience for itself whereas he wants sacrifice only indirectly, in relation to the first.  The sentence therefore means: what God seeks, in sacrifice, is obedience!  The sacrifice of one's won will is the means for conforming to the divine will.  To those who were scandalized at how God could find pleasure in the sacrifice of his Son Jesus, St. Bernard rightly replies: 'It was not the death that pleased him but the will of him who spontaneously died!'  It is not so much therefore the death of Christ that saved us, as his obedience unto death."
From Obedience: The Authority of the Word by Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa

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