Although there is no direct reference to it, today’s readings have undertones that lend themselves to a discussion on obedience. For example, in the first reading, Tobit wants to ensure that they are not disobeying the law by partaking of stolen goods. Also, Jesus discusses with some pharisees and herodians the payment of taxes, which was tied to obeying Roman law. The responsorial psalm of today instructs us that the man who fears the Lord and greatly delights in his commands is blessed.
As religious Sisters, we, too are blessed in our practice of obedience. There is a lot of material available in our Rule and Constitutions to inspire and admonish us in living out the evangelical counsel of obedience. I actually found more abundant material in my search for the term “obedience” than I did for “poverty” or “chastity” in our directives. Below I’ll share some of the references.
Before I go on to quote some passages, I’d like to make a few remarks of my own about this important topic. Obedience, in religious life, is not mainly about upholding order and structure; it is imitating Christ who was obedient to the Father to the point of death, “even death on a cross.” We are obedient for love of Him, in imitation of Him. Our Mother Mary also gives us an example of loving obedience.
We read in our Rule:
“The sisters and brothers promise obedience and reverence to the Pope and the Holy Catholic Church. In this same spirit they are to obey those called to be ministers and servants of their own fraternity.”
“Following the example of Our Lord Jesus Christ, who made his own will one with the Father’s, the sisters and brothers are to remember that, for God, they should give up their own wills.”
“Let them neither dominate nor seek power over one another, but let them willingly serve and obey each other with that genuine love which comes from each one’s heart (cf. Gal. 5:15). This is the true and holy obedience of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
From our Constitutions:
“In our Obedience we will follow Jesus Christ Who lived the Will of the Father unreservedly and was obedient unto death.”
“The goal of His obedience was to perfect the whole of creation through the Redemption. United with Him, our obedience will also share in Jesus’ complete giving of Himself to the Father, so that the Kingdom of God can be accomplished in us and through us.”
“Following the example of St. Francis, we will also serve and obey one another, do our work in the spirit of obedience, carry out the community schedule, and bear patiently our everyday burdens.”
“In our Vow of Obedience we obligate ourselves to obey the directives and decisions of our lawful Superiors according to the Rule and the Constitutions.”
“As Sisters of St. Francis, we obey in love and loyalty the Holy Father, whom we are bound to obey by reason of our Vow of Obedience. And we listen readily and willingly to the directives of the Church.”
“In the spirit of availability and in keeping with our Vow of Obedience, we are ready for a change in service, office, and place of work.
Obedience lived in this manner does not hinder the individual development of a Sister. On the contrary, it leads to the glorious freedom of the children of God.”
Sr. Christina M. Neumann