"By obedience you give great glory to Me and gain merit for yourself."
— Jesus to St. Faustina (Diary of St. Faustina, 28)
The word obedience has never been a favorite of mine. I used to equate it with drudgery. It seemed to involve toeing a line — a line drawn by someone else, not me. If my obedience were demanded — such as in attending Church each Sunday morning — I would inquire, in turn, to be briefed on the rationality for such obedience.
I was shrewd that way.
But, it turns out, my mother was far shrewder.
I remember our refrigerator door always had the typical revolving display of glitter-and-glue artwork and test papers. But one day, a new item was added to the permanent collection. It was a copy, front and center, of the Ten Commandments. My mother had finally put it up there as a means of stifling the increasingly clamorous, enthusiastic, and cleverly crafted arguments I made each Sunday morning as to why we shouldn't go to church.
"Keep holy the Sabbath Day," my mother would say, tapping on the copy of the Ten Commandments. She'd say it with a shrug as if to declare, "Don't blame me. It's not my decision to make."
Even at an early age I knew there was no comeback to a commandment from God. I went to church, obediently, and that was that. Little did I know I'd grow to understand the true essence of obedience to God — that it's a virtue done out of love, not drudgery. As an adult, it's a lesson I wouldn't want to live without.
Obedience to God means to be submissive to His will. What does that entail? It entails glorifying Him with our lives, like St. Faustina did, like Our Blessed Mother did. And it's not as difficult as you may imagine. As the author and Divine Mercy scholar, Fr. George W. Kosicki, CSB, points out, we can learn from St. Faustina that "seeking and desiring to do God's will is a giant step in fulfilling His will" (Revelations of Divine Mercy, Marian Press).
That is to say, by seeking, we find. Otherwise, it won't come automatically. That's the case even with one as spiritually gifted as St. Faustina. Sure, St. Faustina was blessed with gifts that probably none of us will ever have. She had visions and hidden stigmata. She could bilocate. She could read human souls. She had a close, personal relationship with Christ, the Blessed Mother, angels, saints, and souls in purgatory. Still, she knew such gifts did not, in themselves, bring about holiness.
She wrote: "Neither graces, nor revelations, nor raptures, nor gifts granted to a soul make it perfect, but rather the intimate union of the soul with God. These gifts are merely ornaments of the soul, but constitute neither its essence nor its perfection. My sanctity and perfection consist in the close union of my will with the will of God" (Diary, 1107).
She learned such obedience from a master — the Mother of God, herself — who taught her to "accept with profound submission to the will of God" (Diary, 1624).
At the Annunciation, Mary's obedience begins with a choice — her choice to cooperate in God's plan. In obedience, she conceived God's only Son, forsaking her own plans for her life. Mary also invites us all to obey Jesus without hesitation when, at the Wedding Feast of Cana, she says, "Do whatever He tells you" (Jn 2:5). Still, the most courageous example of her obedience was exhibited when, in conformity with God's will, she offered her Son to be crucified.
But how are we to live up to Mary's example? The Gospels solidify God's requirements of us. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments," Jesus tells His disciples (Jn 14:15). Later, He tells them, "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (Jn 15:14).
God couldn't make his expectation of us any clearer. The Bible tells us to obey God because He knows what He's doing (Is 55:8,9). It tells us to obey God because it is He alone who knows what's best for us — "for we are His handiwork" (Eph 2:10).
We also know why we should be obedient since we know full well the consequence of disobedience. Adam and Eve's disobedience to God brought sin, suffering, and death into the world. The Bible, in fact, is rife with consequences of disobedience. Remember Lot's wife being turned into a pillar of salt when she looked back?
In St. Faustina's revelations, Christ doesn't shy away from drawing a line and exhorting us to toe it. He tells St. Faustina, "Before I come as a just Judge, I first open wide the doors of My mercy. He who refuses to pass through the doors of My mercy must pass through the doors of My justice..." (1146).
Still, obedient souls such as Mary and St. Faustina, make it clear that following God's will is not a virtue done out of fear, but out of love and trust. Through Mary, we learn the loving consequence of obedience since her obedience brought the Savior of mankind into the world. Through our own obedience, we, too, may be Christ bearers to a hurting world.
"Yes, when you are obedient I take away your weakness and replace it with My strength," Christ tells St. Faustina. "I am very surprised that souls do not want to make that exchange with Me" (Diary, 381).
Talk about outlining the rationality for obedience!
As a young child, I thought nothing could please me more than to break the chain of Church commitments. Now I know my mother was right all along. By trusting, loving, and obeying God — by offering ourselves wholeheartedly to His divine plan like St. Faustina did, like Mary did — only then can we experience the greatest, most lasting joy imaginable: the joy of God in our lives.