I can command it (fourth-graders fear me) but living it is another matter.
After all, it’s my way or the highway. Isn’t that what we all expect? It’s taken me 40-mumble years, but I am coming around…a little…to the realization that it’s not always going to be my way. Not even close.
Every January, the Secular Franciscans in my fraternity start the year off right. We pray together, and then each of us is given the name of a patron saint, a virtue to cultivate, a maxim to live by, and a person within the fraternity to hold in prayer through the year.
My virtue this year is Obedience. (Cue eye-rolling.) Obedience? Really? I follow the rules, except for the speed limit.
There’s a little more to it than that, though. It’s the question of attitude. Like the “how dare they” mentality I get when I’m asked/told/required to do something that really IS the right thing to do, but since it’s not what I happen to want to do at the moment, I’ve got no mind to obey it.
The word “obedience” comes from a Latin root meaning “to hear.” That’s what it’s all about, really. That’s why, when I’m dealing with fourth graders, I’ll sometimes ask them to repeat directions back to me so that I can make sure they heard them correctly.
But what do we hear? To whom do we listen? There are so many messages to listen to: Facebook, Twitter, the news media…I’m reminded of a line from Pippin that asks, “Would a newspaper ever print anything that wasn’t true?” Are we listening to those sources that have our best interests at heart?
Psalm 119 says: “Train me to observe your law, to keep it with my heart. Guide me in the path of your commands; for there is my delight. Bend my heart to your will and not to love of gain.”
It’s all about “Thy will be done.” And we don’t want to have to say that. But if we really believe that God has our best interests at heart, we will learn to say it.
My prayer this year, then, will not be one written by Saint Francis but instead this one composed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola:
Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.