You are my friends if you keep my commands. (Jn 15:14)
Although we can be obedient out of fear, perfect obedience is the result of love. We obey those whom we love.
The Princess Bride begins by introducing Westley and Buttercup. Buttercup had no greater pleasures in her young life than riding her horse and tormenting Westley the farm boy. “‘As you wish’ was all he ever said to her.” One day she realized “that when he said ‘as you wish’ what he meant was ‘I love you.’ And even more amazing was the day she realized she truly loved him back.”
Westley truly loves Buttercup. He will do whatever she says, not because of some slavish sappiness or because he is her servant but because it is his delight to make her happy. Her happiness is his.
An aspect of this obedience is that he trusts that her commands to him will always be good. He sees her and knows that she is good, which is why he loves her. If it is true that we can know a tree by its fruits, it also follows that a good tree cannot produce bad fruits. So Westley can see that the good Buttercup will not command him to do anything evil.
How much more can be said of our love of God?
If we truly love God, we will be obedient to Him in all things. Love does not abide with disobedience. The two cannot survive together; love fails in disobedience. Disobedience to God is the very definition of sin.
But why would we be obedient to God, even if we love Him? Would this not be the most foolish surrender of the one faculty which is truly ours, our free choice?
First off, we are obedient because, even if it’s hard to understand why He teaches one thing rather than another, we can trust in Him. You can trust that His love will not steer you wrong. He is your Father who created you, and He knows you and loved you from before you were born. He knows perfectly what is good for you and will never lead you astray.
But, it is true that this obedience takes surrender. In fact, that is the point. Our free choice is the only thing that we have to give, the only gift we can give unto the Lord for all the good He has done for us, the only expression of our love.
It really is the least we can do. And the most we can do, too.
St. Joseph is a beautiful image of this obedience out of love. The Dominican Blessed Jean-Joseph Lataste writes that “to all appearances, St. Joseph lived like an ordinary man. … What did he accomplish? He loved. That alone is what he did, and that alone was enough to glorify Him. He loved God with an incalculable and undiminishing love, and was loved the same in response. What deed in his life shows irrefutable proof of this love, this burning love? He was obedient in all things to the will of God.” Though he never spoke a fiat, an “as you wish,” like Blessed Mary did, the virginal stepfather of the Son of God acted immediately on whatever God asked of him, laying down his life for Love Incarnate.
And what greater love is there than this?
Image: Fr. Lawrence Lew, O.P. Return from Egypt (used with permission)