The World's First Love by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Part 26.

The Garden of Eden by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, a 16th-century German depiction of Eden
CHAPTER 8 Obedience and Love

On the eleventh day of February, 1895, on the forty-first anniversary of the revelation of Our Lady at Lourdes, M. Jaures spoke as follows in the French Chamber of Deputies: "The most priceless good conquered by man through all his sufferings and struggles, and despite all his prejudices, is the idea that there is no sacred truth; that all truth which does not come from us is a lie ... if God Himself ever appeared before men, the first duty of man would be to refuse obedience and to consider Him as an equal with us, not as a Master to Whom we should submit."

This affirmation of man as against God is not new, except in its verbiage. From the very beginning, man was a rebel against his Divine destiny; consider the steward, who pretends to be the master of the vineyard, and then kills the messengers of the Lord - the prodigal son who demands his share of the substance, and then squanders it. Man has acted thus in the past, and now the revolution is again in full swing. A modern writer, explaining why he became a Communist, answered that one must go back to the garden of Eden to understand the real reason. There Satan tempted man, promising that "he would be like unto God." This desire of men to deny his dependence on his Creator and to set himself up as an absolute is the basic cause of men's becoming Communists. They are, fundamentally, already in revolt against God, and Communism gives the social pattern for that rebellion. The copy or the carbon then tries to be the original but it could never strive to be the original unless it was already conscious that it was a carbon. Man is the shadow, who would be the substance; the pendulum, who would swing without being suspended from the clock; the painting, which would deny that an artist's hand ever touched it. The most daring of all sins is that of self-deification, and it is possible only because of a Divine Creation - for who would want to be God unless he had come from the hands of God? The human "I" was not made for the "I" alone, but for God's service. The man, therefore, who refuses to seek the perfection of his personality, namely, God, must do one of two things: he must either inflate himself into an infinity, and identify himself in a fantastic swelling with the dimensions of God; or else, he must suffer a terrible emptiness and void within his ego, which is the beginning of despair. Thus there is pride at one end of the mystical self and hopelessness at the other. The will which breaks away from God always becomes an assertive will that will tread anything, ruthlessly, underfoot. All that a will that is divorced from God cares about is power. Nietzsche's will-to-power is synonymous with atheism - not the mental atheism of the sophomore, who knows a smattering of science and of comparative religion, but an atheism of the will, which sets itself up as God. Through all the ages, and until the consummation of time, there will be those who will shriek before the Pilates of this world: "We will not have this Man rule over us!"

Behind this rebellion or disobedience of God, there are two basic assumptions. The first is, that the intelligence invents or originates truth, and that it does not discover or find it. In the nineteenth century it was very common for materialists to believe that they originated the laws of nature because they discovered them. They forgot that the scientist is, actually, a proofreader of the book of Nature, and not its author. The second assumption is that subordination to another implies subjection. This implies a denial of all degrees and hierarchy in nature and in creation, and the reduction of mankind to an egalitarianism, in which each man is a god.

This philosophy of pride assumes that independence must mean the want of any form of dependence. But independence is conditioned upon dependence. Our Declaration of Independence affirms certain basic freedoms, such as the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness. But in a previous sentence it ascribes this independence to the fact that all of these are the endowments of a Creator. Because man is dependent on God, he is not dependent on a State. But once dependence on God is lost, then the State takes over the attributes of Divinity and, being material in its structure, crushes the last vestige of the human spirit. To correct this false deification of man, it is important once more to investigate the meaning of obedience.

Obedience does not mean the execution of orders that are given by a drill sergeant. It springs, rather, from the love of an order, and love of Him who gave it. The merit of obedience is less in the act than in the love; the submission, the devotion, and the service which obedience implies are not born of servitude, but are rather effects that spring from and are unified by love. Obedience is servility only to those who have not understood the spontaneity of love.

To comprehend obedience, one must study it between two great moments. The first moment was when a woman made an act of obedience to the Will of God: "Be it done unto me according to Thy Word." The other moment was when a woman asked man to be obedient to God: "Do whatever He tells you." Between these historical facts is the story told by Luke: "And after they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee to their city Nazareth. And the Child grew and became strong, full of wisdom and the grace of God was in Him.. .. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was subject to them, and His mother kept all these words in her heart. Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace with God and men" (Luke 2:39, 40, 51, 52)