This universe is governed by laws. Things are this way and not that way. By submission to laws we make them our own. For example, if we obey the laws of the body we keep it in health; if we obey the laws of the mind, we keep it learned. Spiritual being has its prizes too, as Our Lord said: "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." In other words, true obedience springs from love, not from force.
The worst man in the world knows a great deal more of his duty than the best man does. It is not for want of knowledge that men go to pieces, but rather for want of obedience to the knowledge of the good they already possess.
Earthly rulers say nohting concerning the temper or spirit of those who obey; all they ask is compliance with edicts and laws. Threats and penalties are attached to infractions, such as a fine for speeding. The legal world says, "If you fear me, you will keep my commandments." But in the Divine order it is different. "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."
In our day, liberty is taking the place of obedience. Obedience, it is said, has had its day. Civilization is in danger when the rights of liberty plead against the duties of obedience as if the two were opposed to one another. A man who has never obeyed is not the man who will know how to command. Steady drudgery and apprenticeship are the necessary training for the conduct of a great business. He will be a poor general wh has never been a lieutenant in the ranks.
Hence Our Blessed Lord went down to Nazareth and was subject to His mother and foster father; then He became obedient unto death, even unto the death on the Cross.
Obedience is not the quality of slaves, for slaves act against their will. He who had liberty to do all things became subject to His parents to prove that obedience is the pathway to freedom. As St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, "You who are children must show obedience in the Lord to your parents; it is your duty."
The parent is strong when he says to the child, "I must have your obedience because I am responsible to God for your upbringing in goodness and truth." On the other hand, the child's strongest encouragement is in the same thought: "In obeying my parents I am doing that which is pleasing to God, and I do it because I love the Lord."
In the book of Lamentations it is written: "It is good for a man to bear the yoke from his youth." A horse must be broken in while he is a colt; a dog must be trained when he is young. So it is with youth. He who has never learned to submit will make himself a tyrant when he obtains power. A silver spoon has choked many a youth.
St. Thomas Aquinas said, "The respect that one has for the rule flows naturally from the respect that one has for the person who gave it." Authority must always have behind it some value which elicits respect and reverence.
In courtship, there are no laws, but the lover always seeks to fulfill the will of the beloved; and in religion, no compulsion is felt by anyone who loves Christ. The real basis of obedience in the family, therefore, is not the fear of punishment, just as in religion it is not the fear of hell. Rather, it is based on the fact that one never wants to hurt anyone whom one loves. It will bear repeating that Our Blessed Lord said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments."