The Child Jesus should be our model of obedience: "And He went down with them (Mary and Joseph) and came to Nazareth and was subject to them" (Luke 2:51). Our Lord, God Himself, lived in humble obedience to two mortals, Mary and Joseph, to give us an example.
By the fourth commandment we are commanded to respect and love our parents, to obey them in all that is not sinful, and to help them when they are in need.
The word "honor" in this commandment includes the doing of everything leading to the welfare, both material and spiritual, of our parents. One respects his parents (a) by reverencing them as holding God's place; (b) by accepting their corrections willingly; and (c) by excusing and hiding their faults.
It was God Himself who gave us our parents, and we reverence God when we respect them who are Hi direct representatives over us. Respect is one duty that a child, however old and famous he may become in later life, will always owe his parents. "The eye that mocketh at his father and that despieth the labor of his mother in bearing him, let the ravens of the brooks pick it out and the young eagles eat it" (Proverbs 30:17).
One loves his parents by trying to please them, by helping them, and praying for them. Children who love their parents make their home a place of joy and peace. A loving child does not wait to be commanded by h is parents, but will do all he can for them, help them out, and accomplish their wishes as far as he can, without a word from them.
A young child should obey his parents without question, complaint, or delay, just as he is told. He will show himself glad to obey. Older children may inquire about the reasons for certain commands, but they too should obey their parents in everything lawful. They will do what their parents wish, even before they are asked. They will obey willingly and promptly.
Because parents are the direct representatives of God over their children, such children owe them obedience. Obedience that is the result of fear of punishment or a trick to get some favor is not true Christian obedience, and much of the merit is lost. "Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest be long-lived upon the land which the Lord thy God will give thee" (Exodus 20:12).
It is a mistake for one to think he knows more than his parents. It is his duty to consult them about important steps he contemplates, as marriage, etc. In all important things, godfearing parents know more than their children. When a child is unwilling or ashamed to let his parents know about something, it is generally wrong.
If in doubt as to the goodness of an action, one should consult his parents or confessor.
A grown-up child should provide for his parents in need, and make their lives as comfortable as possible. For example, an adult son with earnings should support his old parents who have nothing. He should help out with the younger children.
We should especially provide for our parents' last illness. We should call the priest for their last Confession, Viaticum, and the Last Rites. After their death we should provide a worthy funeral according to our means. We should pray and have Masses said for them annually at least, and faithfully carry out their last wishes.
The perfect model of obedience is the Child Jesus. All children should have Him for their model. He, God Himself, was subject to Mary and Joseph all the time that He lived with them in Nazareth.
"He that honoreth have joy in his own children." Those who have not honored their parents often by divine retribution have bad children of their own. The blessing of God is always with a closely united family with members loving each other, doing their best to help everybody in the family.
Besides our parents, the fourth commandment obliges us to respect and to obey all our lawful superiors.
Guardians take the place of parents. A child owes his guardians the same respect and obedience due his parents.
Teachers, godparents of baptism and confirmation, and elderly persons like grandparents, may be called guardians. All old people are to be respected by the young. "Honor the person of the aged man, and rise up before the hoary head" (Leviticus 19:32).
Employers are bound to respect and obey their superiors. They should be loyal, and careful about the property entrusted to them. Tutors and nurses must be especially faithful because to them are entrusted human souls. They must see to it that the children under their care are protected from harm to body and soul.
It is wrong of inferiors to carry stories about their superiors back and forth. If they cannot be loyal to their master, they should leave his service.
All are obliged to respect and obey legitimate civil and ecclesiastical authorities in lawful discharge of official duties. "Let everyone be subject to the higher authorities, for their exists no authority except from God, and those who exist have been appointed by God" (Romans 13:1).
We are obliged to render respect, obedience, and support to our ecclesiastical superiors.
We should reverence our priests and bishops as our fathers in Christ, obey them in spiritual matters, and pray for them. We should contribute to their support according to our means.
We should appreciate the fact that they sacrifice their time, health, and whole lives for the good of our souls. St. Paul tells us: "Obey your superiors and be subject to them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of your souls" (Hebrews 13:17). One offends God gravely if he opposes bishops or priests, speaks ill of the, gossips about them, or neglects to contribute to their support.
We must be loyal to the Holy Father and obey him in spiritual matters. He is the visible head of the body of Christ, the Church, of which we are the members. We must honor him, respect his authority.
In reverencing the Pope, we but reverence Jesus Christ, whose representative his is. We must assist him in the arduous duties of his office by spiritual and material offerings. Hierarchy and laity, all in the Church, without exception, are subject to the Pope, and are bound to yield him perfect obedience in all spiritual matters. We should pray for the Pope, and if we can, give him material help.
On their part, bishops and priests have the obligation of caring for those under their charge, of teaching them their duties, and helping them lead good lives. They are bound to pray for their flocks, and to offer Mass on Sundays and holydays for the members of their diocese or parish
Next Thursday: The Fourth Commandment - Duties of Parents