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The Virtue of Obedience

刊登日期: 2013.04.21
作者: Fr. Thomas Au 區耀邦神父  

“My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” ( Jn. 10:27 ) 

The bishop asks the one to be ordained, “Do you promise obedience to me and my successor ?” 

F o l l o w i n g o u r r e f l e c t i o n o n F a i t h , Hope and Love, I now turn toward some aspects of character building. For a person to mature and become “somebody”, s/he has to form and mode their thinking, emotions and will. I have written about the 4 cardinal virtues of “prudence, temperance, fortitude and justice.” I’d like to tackle “obedience, chastity and poverty.” I know I have changed the order a bit. They are known as “evangelical counsels.” They are vows taken by religious, etc… But I want to examine them as something young people should begin to practice in order for them to be truly well formed young men and women. It is also precisely the opposite that is happening in our world, whether East or West. 

First of all “obedience” has taken on a bad rap. It sounds restrictive and unforgiving. Particularly for us, the word conjures up stories that came from the feudal thinking (封建思想) of the Qing Dynasty. 

Another distorted notion of “obedience” seems to be the current practice of “obeying” my parents if I agree with what they t e l l me to do. That is not obedience at all. In fact, if we were asked to do something we like, we do not have to “obey”. 

So what really is obedience? 

It begins with faith. We have looked at how Christian Faith is really a response to Jesus who shows us the Way, the Truth and the Life. Because I trust Him, I know that whatever He asks of me must be good for me. Therefore, I will do whatever He asks of me. There are times that I think He asks too much of me. But because I trust Him, I am willing to give my very best. 

Now this kind of trust is reserved to God, alone. We trust our parents. But they are not God. They could make mistakes and ask me to do something not good for me, though very rarely. So, only if I am very sure that what they ask of me is morally wrong, will I refuse. I trust that they see things in different ways that are beyond my ability at this point. That is what “obedience” is. 

In the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the 4th Commandment uses the term “filial piety” and explains it this way: 

2215 Respect for parents (filial piety) derives from gratitude toward those who, by the gift of life, their love and their work, have brought their children into the world and enabled them to grow in stature, wisdom, and grace. 

2217 As long as a child lives at home with his parents, the child should obey his parents in all that they ask of him when it is for his good or that of the family. Children should also obey the reasonable directions of their teachers and all to whom their parents have entrusted them. But if a child is convinced in conscience that it would be morally wrong to obey a particular order, he must not do so. 

It is interesting to see that this “obedience” is usually given readily to coaches and leaders in a group more easily than we give it to parents. There is almost a “battle” of the wills between children and parents, while, because we want something in sports or our group identity, we give in to the demands of others willingly. Poor parents. I will tackle this puzzle next time. 

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