This is a continuation of the 73 Steps to Communion with God. The previous steps appear throughout the Archives, available to the left. This is the 61st step:
(61) To obey the commands of the Abbot in all things, even though he himself (which Heaven forbid) act otherwise, mindful of that precept of the Lord: “What they say, do ye; what they do, do ye not” (Mt 23:3).
The Abbot is the head of the monastery, and even though you and I may not be in a monastery we all have human authorities that we should respect and obey. Like the previous counsel where St. Benedict taught us to hate our own will, here we are taught to obey those whom God has placed over us even if the person in authority isn’t the most God-like person.
Benedict quotes Our Lord injunction to obey the Pharisees who He says sat in the seat of Moses. A quick survey of the Gospels will find that Jesus often condemned the behavior of the Pharisees but in this passage says that they should be obeyed anyway because God had put them in their positions of authority.
We also have the example of Our Lord’s journey to the cross where He is handed over by the High Priests and then made subject to Pilate. He tells Pilate that Pilate has no authority over Him unless it were given from above from God. So Our Lord accepts Pilate’s authority to put Him to death.
This way of looking at authority should lead us to pray for those who God has placed over us that they too will seek to do God’s will. The person who truly believes in God will trust that even a corrupt authority will unwittingly do the will of God. The Scriptures are filled with examples of evil kings doing the will of God even though they were unaware of it and might have had evil motives at the time.
The example of Joseph in Genesis, sold into slavery by his brothers who later bow before him imploring his mercy stands as the premier example of this trust that we all should have that God works through whoever He wills. Joseph faced with his brothers says, “what you did to me you meant for evil but God meant it for good to bring about the salvation of many.”
Being obedient but without following the example of bad authority allows us to worship God alone.
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