Prayers, please, for Robert, newly diagnosed as legally blind, and for Ann Marie, his wife. Prayers for Mary Frances, having tests, and for John and his family and business. Lord, help us all as You know and will. God's will is best. All is mercy and grace. God is never absent, praise Him. Thanks so much. JL
January 22, May 23, September 22
Chapter 5: On Obedience
The first degree of humility is obedience without delay.
This is the virtue of those
who hold nothing dearer to them than Christ;
who, because of the holy service they have professed,
and the fear of hell,
and the glory of life everlasting,
as soon as anything has been ordered by the Superior,
receive it as a divine command
and cannot suffer any delay in executing it.
Of these the Lord says,
"As soon as he heard, he obeyed Me" (Ps. 17:45).
And again to teachers He says,
"He who hears you, hears Me" (Luke 10:16).
Such as these, therefore,
immediately leaving their own affairs
and forsaking their own will,
dropping the work they were engaged on
and leaving it unfinished,
with the ready step of obedience
follow up with their deeds the voice of him who commands.
And so as it were at the same moment
the master's command is given
and the disciple's work is completed,
the two things being speedily accomplished together
in the swiftness of the fear of God
by those who are moved
with the desire of attaining life everlasting.
That desire is their motive for choosing the narrow way,
of which the Lord says,
"Narrow is the way that leads to life" (Matt. 7:14),
not living according to their own choice
nor obeying their own desires and pleasures
but walking by another's judgment and command,
they dwell in monasteries and desire to have an Abbot over them.
Assuredly such as these are living up to that maxim of the Lord
in which He says,
"I have come not to do My own will,
but the will of Him who sent Me" (John 6:38).
Ever wonder what was so great about obedience? I sure have and I
vowed it, still wondering a bit. What is so hot about dumping our own
wills? Sometimes our wills are innocent, sometimes they're even
downright good. Let's be truthful, sometimes our own wills seem even
BETTER than the choices presented to us by other circumstances. What
Good rhetorical question, that one: what GIVES. Genuine obedience is
a gift, to God and to all His people. Make the monastic better and
you have made the home or monastery better, and so the neighborhood,
the city, the state and onwards to the whole world. We forget the
ripple effect, because we cannot clearly see it. We are not giving
that gift to falsehood, but to truth.
Every exercise of that gift heightens truth in the world, and Jesus
is the Truth. There is a very incarnational aspect of obedience. Like
Mary, we are, in our own halt and lame, partial ways, birthing God.
In our actions alone can Christ today become visibly human, in our
tiniest drop of fresh water, the sea becomes less salty, the desert,
less dry. No one can make the Sahara a rain forest alone, and God
knows that, but He wants us to try, to be part of the solution, not
the problem. Enough drops together WOULD make the Sahara bloom.
Obedience and humility are conjoined twins which share one heart:
both will die if they are separated. Humility, in its healthiest
perfection, is truth and that truth births bits of God into the
world, confetti mosaics that the wind of the Spirit can blow into
fuller, more accurate portraits. Yes, humility is the most often
mentioned of connections, but the root of humility is truth and the
root of truth is God.
All of us spend large portions of our lives carefully building a
false self, who lives in a false world, with matching false
imperatives. Merton speaks of this false self again and again. The
goal of monastic struggle is to uncover and nurture the TRUE self,
the true world view and values.
We often cheerfully ignore the real imperatives of God and life,
substituting our own and elevating them to a level they truthfully
(literally!) do not deserve. It's a moral displacement activity. We fail
altogether in one area, so we compensate by raising another. Trouble
is, the other one raised is false. Sigh... As Merton also once said:
"Round and round the mulberry bush..."
Give a good parent a critically ill child and you will find out
what's true or important in a hurry. Everything gets dropped at once,
without hesitation or care. Everything. Give a single person a really
bad case of the flu and you will soon find imperatives pared to very
few. (The flu or any illness is a superlative teacher: if it doesn't
matter when you're that sick, it usually doesn't matter, period!)
The sentiment is not mine originally, but I have often said that the
truly neat thing about being HIV+ is that it hit me over the head
with a 2x4 board and woke me up to a fact that is true for all of us:
I'm gonna die. Big deal. Didn't happen when I thought it would, may
not for a long time, I'm quite healthy, but I'm gonna die. So are
you. Who knows when? Maybe both of us by lunch and neither of us from
See what obedience points us toward? Obedience says: here is the
truth. Embrace it now, don't wait for the threatened child or the
ghastly flu or HIV to scare you into appropriate action. The truth
we only see in crisis is here all along. Keep what you have learned
from crisis. Live it all the time. Make it a gift, because it is one
that will enrich others AND yourself!
Love and prayers,
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]