Preacher: To Obey God Is to Want What He Wants

Father Cantalamessa Gives Lenten Meditation at Vatican

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 31, 2006 ( Obedience identifies our will with God’s will and leads to the fulfillment of our vocation to live “in his image and likeness,” says the Pontifical Household preacher.

Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa delivered that message today when continuing his Lenten meditations in the presence of Benedict XVI and members of the Roman Curia.

The preacher, who is focusing on aspects of the passion of Christ, proposed reflection on the obedience of Jesus unto death — the “key to the reading of the whole story.”

“It is not so much the death itself of Christ that has saved us, but his obedience unto death,” said Father Cantalamessa.

He recalled St. Bernard, who said that the Father was not pleased by the death of the Son but by “the will of the one who was dying spontaneously.”

“God wants obedience for itself, sacrifice he wants only indirectly, as the condition that on its own makes obedience possible and authentic,” said the Capuchin. “In this connection, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Christ ‘learned to obey through suffering.’ The passion was the proof and measure of his obedience.”

And the latter was “an interior and absolute submission to God, carried out in a situation of extreme difficulty,” he recalled.

Basing himself on a passage from the First Letter of Peter — “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” — the preacher then concretized several aspects of obedience to God in Christian life.

In fact, “only if one believes in an actual and punctual ‘Lordship’ of the Risen One in the Church” can one understand “the need and the importance of obedience to God” and “listen to God who speaks, in the Church, through his Spirit, which illuminates the words of Jesus and of the whole Bible and confers authority on them, making them channels of the living and actual will of God for us,” he noted.

However, “spiritual obedience to God does not dissuade from obedience to visible and institutional authority,” but “renews, strengthens and vivifies it,” for “in the Church institution and mystery” are united.

Everything in the Church has been built out of obedience to God, so that the latter “cannot be forgotten not even after the construction has ended, otherwise everything enters into crisis,” Father Cantalamessa said.

The Pontifical Household preacher also emphasized that “obedience to God is something that can always be done” and “that we can all do, both subjects as well as superiors.”

“One must know how to obey to be able to command,” he said. “When an order comes from a superior who tries to live in the will of God, who has prayed before and has no personal interests to defend, but only the good of the brother, then the authority itself of God is the buttress of such an order or decision.”

However, on questions of “certain seriousness, … to obey orders and visible authorities happens only on occasions” (…); while to obey orders directly from God “occurs very often,” and “the more one obeys, the more [his orders] multiply, because he knows that this is the most beautiful gift he can give, the one he gave his favorite Son, Jesus.”

Thus, “when God finds a soul determined to obey, then he takes his life in his hands, and certainly becomes ‘Lord,’ who rules, who governs, determining, it might be said, moment by moment, the gestures, and words of that person, his way of using time, everything.”

It is a “spiritual direction” that is exercised “through good inspirations” and with even greater frequency in God’s words in the Bible, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit.

But, why is it so important to obey God? Why is it so important for God to be obeyed? Certainly not because of the pleasure of commanding or of having subjects!” exclaimed Father Cantalamessa.

He added: “It is important because by obeying, we do the will of God, we want the same things that God wants, and so we fulfill our original vocation, which is to be ‘in his image and likeness.’ We are in the truth, in the light, and as a consequence, in peace.”

Father Cantalamessa placed Mary, the “living icon of obedience” next to Jesus. She not only “imitated the Servant’s obedience, but lived it with him.”

He concluded: “Teach us, Mary, to do the will of God as you did!”

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