Finally, we shouldn’t forget the sort of obedience that may be the most important and the most overlooked: what might be called “obedience to events.” This notion obviously poses a difficult theological and existential problem.
“Obedience to events” does not mean falling into fatalism or passivity, nor does it mean saying that everything that happens is God’s will: God does not will evil or sin. Many things happen that God does not will. But he still permits them, in His wisdom, and they remain a stumbling block or scandal to our minds.
God asks us to do all we can to eliminate evil. But despite our efforts, there is always a whole set of circumstances which we can do nothing about, which are not necessarily willed by God but nevertheless are permitted by him, and which God invites us to consent to trustingly and peacefully, even if they make us suffer and cause us problems.
We are not being asked to consent to evil, but to consent to the mysterious wisdom of God who permits evil. Our consent is not a compromise with evil but the expression of our trust that God is stronger than evil.
This is a form of obedience that is painful but very fruitful. It means that after we have done everything in our power, we are invited, faced with what is still imposed on our will by events, to practice an attitude of abandonment and filial trust toward our heavenly Father, in the faith that “for those who love God, everything works together for good.”
To give an example, God did not want the treachery of Judas or Pilate’s cowardice (God cannot want sin); but he permitted them, and he wanted Jesus to give filial consent to these events. And that is what he did—“Father, not what I will, but what thou wilt.”
The events of life are, after all, the surest expression of God’s will, because there is no danger of our interpreting them subjectively. If God sees that we are docile to events, able to consent peacefully and lovingly to what life’s happenings “impose” on us, in a spirit of filial trust and abandonment to his will, there can be no doubt that he will multiply personal expressions of his will for us through the action of his Spirit who speaks to our hearts.
If, however, we always rebel and tense ourselves against difficulties, that kind of defiance of God will make it difficult for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives. What most prevents us from becoming saints is undoubtedly the difficulty we have in consenting fully to everything that happens to us, not, as we have seen, in the sense of a fatalistic passivity, but in the sense of a trusting total abandonment into the hands of our Father God. What often happens is that, when we are confronted with painful occurrences, we either rebel, or endure them unwillingly, or resign ourselves to them passively.
But God invites us to a much more positive and fruitful attitude: that of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, who, as a child, said: “I choose it all!” We can give this the meaning: I choose everything that God wants for me. I won’t content myself with merely enduring, but by a free act of my will; I decide to choose what I have not chosen.
St. Thérèse used the expression: “I want everything that causes me difficulties.” Externally it doesn’t change anything about the situation, but interiorly it changes everything. This consent, inspired by love and trust, makes us free and active instead of passive, and enables God to draw good out of everything that happens to us whether good or bad.
Quote for the Day
“The desired wife has developed her personality before marriage and continues that development during marriage. By personality here I mean beauty of soul and all those qualities and accomplishments which go to make a person interesting and sought after. Personality will carry a girl a great deal further in life than physical beauty. In fact, without personality, beauty often tires one in married life. Some girls are born with physical beauty. None are born with personality. They must develop and cultivate it all the days of their lives.” – Fr. Leo Kinsella, The Wife Desired, 1950’s
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