The Expedience of Obedience

View the previous Discovering the Diary.

Turn to any page of the Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska and you find spiritual gems. Like this one:


Once Jesus told me, "Go to Mother Superior ... and ask her to let you wear a hair shirt for seven days and once each night you are to get up and come to the chapel." ... I said yes, but I found a certain difficulty in actually going to the Superior. In the evening Jesus asked me, "How long will you put it off?"

... The next day before noon I ... told her of the wish of the Lord Jesus. At that, Mother answered, "I will not permit you to wear any hair shirt. Absolutely not! If the Lord Jesus were to give you the strength of a colossus, I would then permit those mortifications."

I apologized for taking up Mother's time and left the room. ... Jesus said, "I was here during your conversation with the Superior and know everything. I don't demand mortification from you, but obedience. By obedience you give great glory to Me and gain merit for yourself" (Diary, 28).

We've all heard the phrase, "The Lord works in mysterious ways." Few passages in St. Faustina's Diary speak to that truth like this one. Though Jesus told St. Faustina to ask for permission to perform an arduous, seven-day penance, He did not intend for her to go through with it at all.


Jesus wanted to teach St. Faustina that He values obedience far more than suffering. It would have taken much physical suffering to endure the seven-day penance the Lord described. But the Lord is not pleased with us in proportion to how much we suffer. The Lord takes far more interest in how much we obey Him. When we obey the Lord, even if we don't fully understand, we give Him full permission to work in our lives.

Still, mortification and obedience are closely related. We mortify ourselves in order to help us deny our wills so that we can better obey the Lord. So, though Jesus doesn't like when we suffer, He can use the suffering He allows us to undergo to form us more and more into His image.

Jesus Wastes Nothing
In fact, the Lord always makes the most of the suffering we endure. The Lord could have taught St. Faustina humility and obedience through a long and arduous penance like He had initially requested. Instead, He taught St. Faustina humility and obedience through a relatively quick exchange. The Lord had told St. Faustina directly to request this seven-day penance. She had no reason to think He didn't intend for her to go through with it.

But when St. Faustina finally does get up the courage to ask, she's told "no." Her superior's response seems pretty harsh. Saint Faustina didn't receive a "No, I'm sorry, but thanks for asking." She received an "Absolutely not!" In fact, in the very next entry, St. Faustina writes about the ridicule she received from her fellow sisters for her close relationship with Jesus.

We can't always anticipate how the Lord will discipline us. We don't know the future, and we can't always rely on other people to treat us well. We can, however, be sure that as long as we try our best to obey the Lord, He will use the suffering He allows in the best possible way to form us ever more into His image.

My prayer: Jesus, please help me to have a healthy understanding of the purpose and place of mortification. Please give me the grace to obey You and to not to become discouraged when I am humiliated. Finally, help me to trust that whatever suffering You lead me through, You will use it in the best possible way to lead me to sanctity.


You might also like...

Saint Paul’s conversion, which we celebrate on Jan. 25, is no one-time “exception to the rule” of hard work and slow conversion. We have many similar stories in our own day.

On Feb. 4, Catholics around the world unite to remember the "other" St. Joan of France, St. Joan de Valois, patroness of the Marian Congregation. Born into a world that despised her and reviled her appearance, this soul became a light in the world that longed for true beauty. 

Feb. 2, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, is also the World Day of Consecrated Life. The life of consecrated religious, like this feast, is marked by mingled pain and joy.