Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Paradoxical Power of Obedience Here's a word that can often cause a knee-jerk reaction in many of us: obedience. It can conjure up images of childhood, of intrusive chores to be done, or adventurous dreams of camping out in the fort behind the house crushed. Obedience... bam! Conversation over! And then there are all those commandments and rules and holy days of obligation and stuff! Obedience; the word can fall on our ears like a hammer... thud. But let's get to the heart of things. What's the root of this word? It's Latin (of course). Obedare means.... to hear. Maybe the words we heard when we were young were harsh. Maybe they fell like hammers, and the handle was always "Because I said so." Well, this is unfortunate, and I would propose that we need to redeem the word; to clear away the clutter of bad connotations that parents or authorities or superiors or bosses may have piled on top of the word obedience. "Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it." I'm discovering that this Word of God isn't just bound to the books we hold in church, but can come streaming through a hundred conversations each day, and from the most surprising places. I believe that if we allow ourselves to hear it, (obey it) and let it sink in, amazing stuff happens. Really amazing stuff. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a man of great strength and courage. He obeyed a call from God to the priesthood and was a missionary in Japan. On a return to his native Poland, he was captured and doomed to the concentration camp of Auschwitz for his Catholic priesthood. In the camp, when a runaway caused a severe punishment to his fellow prisoners, Maximilian laid down his life for another soul. He obeyed an inner voice, a call to heroic love. And because of his obedience, a man with a wife and family was allowed to live, to survive the camp, and to return to his family after the war. That man was actually present in Rome when his fellow prisoner, the humble friar, was gifted with the honor of sainthood. St. Maximilian once said "By obeying we raise ourselves beyond our littleness and we can act in conformity with an infinite wisdom... Through obedience we become infinitely powerful." To obey God is to open the heart to a myriad of possibilities we can only dream of. It is to let God in. The disobedience of Adam and Eve brought death into the world. The obedience of Mary opened the gates to Life. The disobedience of Satan destroys and divides. But the obedience of Christ who became "obedient even unto death" - this one has remade the world. So let us listen, let us train ourselves to better hear His invitations of grace in this noisy world. Let us obey!
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