Obedience is the secret key to genius and creativity. Before someone creates something new or finds some insight which changes the world, they are first obedient to the demands of a particular discipline or to the wisdom of a teacher. In this sense, the master is first the student; the humble student who internalizes the inner principles which animate any field of human enquiry, art, or technology. From the obedience to these inner principles, the genius is then able to reach out and form new channels of insight which constitute not so much a rupture with the establishment but a greater fulfillment.
Holiness is likewise grounded in obedience. However, holiness is a particular kind of genius which transcends the limitations of natural human achievement. Human greatness, while incredible to behold, can still be mixed with a certain amount of pride and egocentricity. In contrast, the greatness of the saints requires a total conversion of self, a perfect self-forgetting which comes only through the Holy Spirit.
Thus, the obedience of the saints requires a dramatic convergence between the human will and the will of God which takes place through the mediation of the Church and the sacraments. For the saint to flourish, he or she must hold before their gaze a gentle suspicion of even the most noble of affections. Devotion can be easily twisted. What appears to be holiness can subtly turn in on itself if one does not live for communion with God and with neighbor, and this communion cannot be with abstract ideas but with concrete people. In a way that is often misunderstood, the saint learns that obedience to even the most imperfect of leaders is better than self-reliance.
This gentle suspicion of one’s self does not produce anxiety or a kind of rigid self-consciousness, but rather is the necessary constraint which focuses and directs the vitality of the genius. Like the rules of a discipline are necessary, so the confines of authority help purify and guide the zeal of the believer who has been energized by the Holy Spirit.
Today, let us cultivate obedience to the Church and to Christ with a sense of renewal and excitement. Let us awaken to the possibility that through this conformity, we will be given a new trajectory that will allow us to go to heights that are unimaginable for the isolated ego.