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Fr. Bob at pulpit during Easter Vigil

Obedience (Part 2)

The author of the letter to the Hebrews, dealing with the same subject, puts it this way: "You must obey your leaders and submit to them, for it is their appointed task to have care over you, and they must, in their turn, render due account." (Hebrews 13:17) The duty, it would seem, of those in authority is to exercise proper care for those under them. They will be assessed on that basis. For those under authority, what God expects of them is clear. They are to be obedient. 

The Lord has set up the Church with some very clear lines of authority. For most of us, bishops and pastors, along with legitimately appointed superiors, are the ones we are to obey. (It is understood, of course, we are absolved of our duty to obey if we are told to do something sinful.)

If we are convinced of the truth of all this, it remains simply for us to make a decision to obey and to follow through with it. An effective decision should take care of it. 

Not so simple.

"The human factor continues to intervene. We still have trouble with authority. We can find any number of reasons not to obey. The authority person is unreasonable. Or he is uninformed. Or he doesn't know what he's doing. Or his track record is poor. Or, surely, the Lord doesn't want me to obey in this particular situation. The authority/obedience combination is truly a problem. But the problem is not with the authority person, whatever his shortcomings. The problem is with the one who won't obey." 

I was trying to punch this point home in a homily not so long ago. Afterwards a young university student thought he would offer a comment on the message. He gave me to understand in no uncertain terms that he thought I was way off the mark. "Look at all the great things that have been done throughout history by people who were disobeying the authorities." My only rejoinder was to the effect that if they had obeyed, they probably would have done even greater things. I think I was right. But, all the same, obedience is just not a very popular virtue. 

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