Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Thoughts on Obedience

While obedience is often understood as blind submission, my current vow guru, Howard Gray, argues that just doing whatever you're told, with no input or comment, is not Jesuit obedience. “If obedience is simply me waiting to be told what to do, then that creates a whole subcharacter of passivity, inertia, irresponsibility. In the Society every obedience involves consultation, representation, prayer, a slowing down of the process so that we can feel that God is in it."

The reality is, oftentimes missionings happen out of sudden events, and slowing the process down can be tough. But that instinct really speaks to the underlying Jesuit understanding, that what we're doing here in obedience is primarily to "suss out", as the Aussies say, the will of God, by trying to read the signs and heed what the Spirit seems to be saying.

Gray has another very provocative comment on the vow: "What obedience is in terms of its potential as an apostolic dynamism is saying that I’ve enlarged the options and therefore the apostolic imagination of my performance so that it is never limited only by my experience but open to the wider, richer experience of the Church, of my superiors, and of the people we are trying to serve.”

That's a mouthful, but the point is twofold: 1) this vow, like all the others, is for mission. 2) Obedience relates to everyone involved in the conversation. It's not just the missioned man who wants to be obedient, but the superior, to God's beckonings. That idea that the process is one of "enlarging the options" and our imaginations as to what is possible (rather than pinning them down) is quite innovative...great, challenging stuff.

It also strikes me, this way of framing the vow brings us all into the same boat. It's not just Jesuits who are trying to be obedient in this sense of seeking out and following the will of God, but all of us, yes?

Now if it were only easy!

Speaking of obedience, today I want to also honor my first encounter with obedience:

My Mom, last November, in New York. I call it "After the Third Martini".

Rusty McDermott -- she's having a birthday tomorrow. 47 (again). Happy Birthday, Mom! I love you!

And for her birthday, this very funny video about some of the more problematic positions of the Republican party. I'm sure Democrats can and will be equally mocked in the coming months (yes, they will!), but for a life-long Democrat like my mom, this will bring great laughs. (I personally love the lady in the supermarket, and the boy who wants to go to Iran.)

Again, Happy Birthday, Mom!


shera10 said...

FR Jim,
I love the Jesuits order, but a relative of mine is Domenican. Yesterday he explained to me that Society of Jesus is the only religious order in the Catholic Church that has an exemption from the Pope to practice "manifestation of conscience". You always are special people!

From your experience which is the most difficult vow?
thank and ciao

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