Chapter IX of The Imitation of Christ treats “Of Obedience and Subjection” (1,9). The words above introduce this chapter. On today’s Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle, the man from Tarsus follows this good advice (Acts 22:3-16). Not only does he obey Ananias, a man he just met, by receiving baptism, but, more importantly, he obeys Jesus, who he just encountered on the Damascus road in finding Ananias and receiving his marching orders from this man (read Acts 9:1-22, the alternate reading for today, and Luke’s rendition of Paul’s conversion, to flesh out more details). Paul’s life would not be his own, ever again. The zeal that he showed in persecuting Christians was now directed, many fold I suspect, in bringing others to Christ.
So, we also are to be obedient to the Lord and our lawful superiors. Due to our fallen, stubborn, prideful nature, not always an easy task, whether it’s God or man giving the direction. Once again, we go back to the virtue of humility. Even though we believe, as we should, that the Almighty is perfectly trustworthy, His plans do not always comport with our desires. With His grace and much prayer, we might just be able to comply in such circumstances. But when our imperfect human family is the source of orders that contradict our opinions, that is when the rubber meets the road, so to speak. Now, of course, we are not to follow sinful demands, and we may wish to provide a counterpoint, but as Kempis says further along in the chapter, “Although your opinion be good, yet if for God’s sake you leave it to follow that of another, it will be more profitable to you” (1,9,2).
The Gospel is challenging, isn’t it?
Ananias restoring the sight of Saint Paul (1631) by Pietro da Cortona