Obedience is the Only Path to Peace

"I will follow Your will," St. Faustina promised the Lord, "insofar as You will permit me to do so through Your representative. O my Jesus, it cannot be helped, but I give priority to the voice of the Church over the voice with which You speak to me" (Diary of St. Faustina, 497).

I read that passage in St. Faustina's Diary twice, just to make sure I had understood her correctly. How could she possibly say that she would listen to the voice of the Church over the voice of Jesus Himself, who was appearing before her and speaking plainly with His own lips? After all, isn't the Church made up of mortals, of sinners? Don't its members - from the laity all the way up to the pope himself - make mistakes?

"I have come to do My Father's will. I obeyed My parents, I obeyed My tormentors and now I obey the priests" (Diary, 535). Those are the words of Jesus, and if it is difficult for us to understand why St. Faustina would obey her confessor over the Lord, it is probably much more difficult to fathom the concept of the Lord Himself obeying priests. We already know, of course, that Christ obeyed His Father, praying, "Let Your will, not Mine, be done" (Mk 14:36); the Finding in the temple and the wedding at Cana demonstrate His obedience to His parents. The Passion reveals all too poignantly Our Lord's submission to those who tortured and killed Him. But priests? Aren't they supposed to obey God, not the other way around?

There is so much to say about this topic, but I'll stick to this one point: These astonishing statements in the Diary can help us stop and ask ourselves how well we obey the Church. When Jesus submitted to the baptism of repentance, He did it partly to set an example for the rest of us. "We must fulfill all righteousness," He explained to St. John the Baptist (Mt 3:15). Our Lord showed us what we must do, even though as God, He didn't need to be cleansed with the waters of baptism. Just as His baptism reminds us how desperately we need the graces of this sacrament, Christ's obedience to priests - when He takes the form of Bread and Wine and when He absolves us from our sins - reminds us to obey them, too.

But it's not always easy, is it? It could be, if we remember two simple things. First (speaking of baptism), we can remember one of our baptismal promises: to reject Satan and "all his pomps and all his empty promises."

"Pomp" refers to showy splendor, a quality that causes us to be dazzled by something's appearance. How easy it is to assume that a thing is good just because it looks impressive. The wording of this promise warns us that Satan can make his ideas look very good to us. He's so cunning at weaving these pomps, in fact, that he can make vices look like virtues: the mortal sin of contraceptive use parades around wearing accolades such as "safe" and "responsible"; the grievously unnatural act of homosexual relations demands acceptance under the guise of "equality."

If the Church didn't tell us, how could we know that these labels are no more than clever illusions that offer us "empty promises" of a happier world and a more upright life? I know I wouldn't; I would fall for it all. I did once. Not until I learned more about my faith did I begin to understand that God's perfect plan is indeed not of this world and that the world is poorer while it settles for anything less than what He designed.

I'm not saying we should withhold our obedience until we understand the reasons behind the Church's teachings. Rather, when we disagree with something we hear from a valid Church authority, we should confirm that it is a true teaching of the Church (for, alas, even some priests will occasionally say things that don't correspond with what the Church teaches), and then pray for our consciences to be healed so they can guide us as they were meant to do. Still, we can - and should - ask lots of questions and learn about the beautiful harmony behind these teachings, and obedience becomes a deeper joy.

Second, we can remember that Jesus promised the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church. He did not promise that they would not prevail against individual souls. If I make it to heaven, I know it will be by clutching the apron-strings of my Mother Church, not by wandering off on my own.

Catholic author Mary Reed Newland wrote, "Obedience in all things is the way to peace." As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Prince of Peace this Christmas season, let us remember the words by which our salvation entered the world - "Let it be done to me according to your word" (Lk 1:38) - and ask Mary to increase in us the virtue of holy obedience so that we can prepare the way of the Lord, Who with His life taught us to be "obedient unto death" (Phil 2:8). It will not make us popular, but it will make us free.

Marian Tascio is a freelance writer who lives in Yonkers, N.Y.

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