An essential feature of true fraternity

The theologian Pasquale Foresi (1929-2015) writing on the Christian virtue of obedience today, saw Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as the model of those who by obeying people obeyed God alone.

IconMaryIn the modern world, obedience is no longer appreciated for what it truly is. The appeal for liberty, equality and fraternity proclaimed during the French Revolution is reflected daily in our newspapers, our homes and streets and even in our parishes, convents and monasteries. … It follows that we often find in our subconscious a veiled sense of distrust concerning this precious virtue, almost as if it were in opposition to the discovery that the Gospel makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ. …

Obedience does not imply abdicating our own personality or an inhuman humiliation. Quite the opposite, it helps us be truly ourselves and develop our personality, because it puts us in a social context that is essential, from both a human and a divine point of view, to the true manifestation of our skills.

When the will of those who are my legitimate superiors in civil or ecclesiastical governance tells me what to do or what to avoid, even if it contrasts with my projects and ideas, it always raises me up to a broader and more general level, the level of the common good.

The sense of hindrance and resistance that I feel, due to this contrast, is the contribution I must make to being raised up. It is then that I become more fully human. The more I find myself united with others, the more I discover we are brothers and sisters. This fraternity is the outcome of fellowship.

Far from being in contrast to fraternity, obedience becomes an indispensable means for creating it. … Often, when speaking of this virtue, people talk only of its ascetic side, the progress made by someone who renounces their own will, the freedom from their passions that they acquire, and so on. This is of course true, but obedience gives us something better still. It makes us mystical sharers in Christ’s humanity and allows us to experience the mind of Christ in our lives (cf. Phil 2:5)

Mary is the perfect model of this inner obedience. We see this in her reply to the Angel Gabriel, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord”, and when she travelled to Bethlehem following the edict put out by the Roman Emperor. We see it in her “haste” to go and help Elizabeth after she had the inspiration to do so, and when she asked Jesus for a miracle during the wedding feast at Cana. We see it on Calvary, when she gave up the Son of God to stay with John, and later when she prayed with the apostles while awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. Her life was in continual obedience to God alone, by obeying people and circumstances.

By letting Mary live again in us, we will share in her inner depths and her willingness. An example of this was Andrea Ferrari, a focolarino who was dying [after a road accident]. Someone spoke to him about accepting God’s will and he answered with a wittiness that revealed his deep union with God, “We have learned to recognise God’s will always, even in front of a red traffic light”. 

Translated from: Pasquale Foresi – Parole di Vita [Words of Life] – Città Nuova 1963 – pp 197-8-9-200




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