I am a spiritual director; that means that I “walk with” men and women who seek to deepen their relationship with the Lord. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t (generally) give advice. I’m simply there to help point out the presence of God, maybe even the call of God.
I see, for example, a few men who are in formation for the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Toledo. I spoke with one who is approaching ordination; specifically, we were reflecting on the promise of obedience. On the day of his ordination, the bishop will ask him, “Do you promise respect and obedience to me and my successors?” The same question is repeated at ordination to the priesthood. Many understand this obedience to mean accepting whatever assignment is given by the bishop. Obedience, however, runs much deeper, and is one of the keys to deepening the spiritual life—for the ordained, for the non-ordained.
At its core, self-sacrifice is what obedience is about. A cleric’s obedience, ultimately, is a response to the will of God. The bishop’s role here is that the will of God is made manifest through the Church’s legitimate authority. Of course, the same principle is at work in the assignments of the Little Sisters of the Poor. I have always been touched by the fact that the Sisters refer to their changes in assignment as “receiving their obedience.” Perhaps they would not, on their own, choose to be reassigned; but in obedience to the will of God, made manifest in the directions of Mother Provincial, they sacrifice how they, as individuals, may feel.
Self-sacrifice is necessary for anyone who wants to draw closer to the Lord. We must sacrifice what we may want for what God wants. And what God wants is no big secret: that we love God, and that we love our neighbor as ourselves.Sometimes—often-times—that means living in a state of readiness to fulfill the (legitimate) requests of those in-charge. We, ourselves, don’t always know what is best for us. I think that accepting that reality is part of what it means to “grow old gracefully.”