St. Benedict and Obedience

A reflection on the call to loving obedience by Mother Maria-Michael Newe, OSB

Linocut artwork of St. Benedict by one of our Sisters

We hear over and over in the Old Testament the words of the prophets calling the people to return to the Lord.  It makes me think of our Holy Father St. Benedict—could he not be considered one of the great prophets as well?

In chapter five of the Rule we hear about St. Benedict’s teaching on obedience.  It has a value and a power far beyond our little means, because it is united with Christ.  It can be a golden tool in our lives if we allow it to be.  If we think only of being “forced” to obey, we will not get very far.  But if we think of being obedient because Christ was obedient, and to counter the fall in Eden, which happened out of disobedience, then we will be using the gift of obedience for the highest good.  If we cherish Christ above all, cherish Him deeply, we will carry out all our duties as if we heard them from God Himself.  

The Rule tells us that monks who truly practice obedience abandon their own concerns, leaving whatever they have in hand unfinished, in order to hearken to the signal for the Divine Office (Rule 43.1).   If we don’t practice this form of obedience in the little things, we will be tempted to reason our way out of everything.  It is love that impels us to pursue everlasting life and the narrow road, no longer living by our own judgment or giving in to our own appetites, but saying with Christ, “I came…not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (John 6:38).  Christ’s love working in us impels us to act as He did.  Love alone will give us this grace.  

And when we feel that we cannot handle the obedience being asked of us, we can look to Christ’s example on the Mount of Olives.  He cries out to the Father for help, “Father, take this cup away from me,” but ultimately surrenders Himself with the words, “but not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).