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Swift and Perfect Obedience

The first step of humility is obedience without delay. This comes natural to those who, either on account of the holy servitude they have professed, through fear of hell, or for the glory of life everlasting, consider nothing more dear to them than Christ. As soon as their Superior commands them to do something, they make no delay in doing it, just as if God Himself commanded them. 

Of such disciples, our Lord says: “as soon as they heard of me they obeyed” (Ps 18:45). And to teachers He says: “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (Lk 10:16). Therefore, these disciples leave everything immediately, put their own will aside, stop what they were doing, and with the speedy foot of obedience, act upon the voice of him who commands. And then, it is as if the command of the master and the perfect work of the disciple go together—like they are one and same—acting speedily in the fear of God, and quickly put into effect by those who ardently desire to advance in the way of eternal life. 

These disciples take the narrow way, of which the Lord says: “How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life” (Mt 7:14). They do not live according to their own will, nor do they follow their own desires and pleasures, but, abiding in monasteries, walk according to the command and direction of another, and willingly have an Abbot over them. 

Without doubt, these disciples fulfill that saying of our Lord: “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me” (Jn 5:30). This obedience, therefore, will be acceptable to God and pleasing to men if it is done without fear, sluggishness, or coldness, and without showing unwillingness, for the obedience which is given to superiors is also given to God Who has said: “Whoever listens to you listens to me” (Lk 10:16). 

Therefore, disciples should obey with a good will, because God “loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). If the disciple obeys with ill-will and grumbling in his heart, and yet does what he is told, God will not accept his actions; God cares about the disposition of our heart. The disciple will not receive any reward for performing work with grumblings, but will rather incur the penalty of grumblers, unless he amends and changes for the better. 

This article is taken from a chapter in The Rule of Saint Benedict by St. Benedict, which is available from TAN Books.

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