Trust and Obey

When I was a child I was taught the Sunday School song, “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to Trust and Obey.”

So this morning at Mass this song comes back to me in the reading of the gospel. It is the story of the healing of the centurion’s servant. A new understanding of this story and of faith hit me square between the eyes. Here’s a clip:

“Lord, do not trouble yourself,
for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof.
Therefore, I did not consider myself worthy to come to you;
but say the word and let my servant be healed.
For I too am a person subject to authority,
with soldiers subject to me.
And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes;
and to another, ‘Come here,’ and he comes;
and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”
When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him
and, turning, said to the crowd following him,
“I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”
When the messengers returned to the house,
they found the slave in good health.

Most often we hear this gospel and hear that the centurion had faith and that as a consequence his servant was healed. We think that ‘having faith’ means trying very, very hard to believe something. We think ‘having faith’ means squeezing our eyes shut and thinking good thoughts very, very hard so that good things happen. Or we think ‘having faith’ means trying very, very hard to believe something which we think is probably not true, and if we believe enough then it really will be true after all. It’s all a bit like “if you believe in fairies clap your hands and Tinkerbell will live…”

Then I saw this story again. Here is a centurion. He’s a tough soldier with a tender heart. He lives in a particular way. He takes orders from above. He does what he’s told. There is a certain amount of trust in his superior, and even if he doesn’t trust his superior, he trusts in the virtue of obedience and order. It is the same with his slaves and soldiers beneath him. He says “come here” and he comes and “Do this” and he does it. The centurion lives a certain kind of life. It is a life of trust and obedience. He trusts. He obeys. This is the life he leads.

So then I saw that this was also what Our Lord meant by ‘faith’. It was not just trying hard to believe something which we really rather deep down know is all poppycock. Instead it is living a life of trust and obedience. It is knowing enough about God to trust him and then obey. It is knowing enough about Christ to trust him and obey. It is knowing enough about the Church and her teachings to trust and obey.

This is what faith is: it is being faithful. It is living a certain kind of life–a life of wave walking–a life of trusting obedience. The centurion did not try very hard to believe something he thought was probably not true. He didn’t squeeze his eyes shut and try to have some sort of religious experience which made him feel all gooey and good. He didn’t summon up a belief by working hard at it. He didn’t ascribe to a set of dogmas and call that faith. He lived a simple life of trusting obedience, and when he encountered Christ he entered into that same simple trusting obedience with him.

This quality of character produced another quality: humility. The centurion—because he was a man of trusting obedience–was also humble. He was able to say in all sincerity and simplicity, “I am not worthy that you should come under my roof.”

This, then is faith: to know enough about God to put our humble trust in him, and then to obey him day by day and moment by moment. Do this and (as we say in the Holy Mass)…your soul will be healed.

  • Alexander

    Great post. Thank you for such insight. I have always look forward reading you post.
    God bless you.

  • http://www.LiveCatholic.net Marcy K.

    This is very profound. Thank you.

  • http://plaincatholic.webs.com/ Plain Catholic

    Trust and obedience are two virtues in very short supply in our cynical and callous world. How many times have we said to Jesus “I trust in You” but all the while making a backup Plan B?

    No worries, I honestly can say that everyone has done this at one time or another. So we pick ourselves up by the scruff and get busy walking in our discipleship again. God knows our needs before we even know them.

  • Revert Richard

    What a nice answer to Protestants who believe in Solo Fide! You’re article is beautiful insight into what faith really is. And since faith is trust and obedience, then works are an inexorable result of faith as we “Go,” “Come here,” and “Do this.”

  • veritas

    I have found that those times when I stop trying to analyse what God is doing with me and for me, and instead “Let go, and let God”, by simple obedient trust, are the times I am really blessed.

  • Deacon Bill

    Thank you Father. Wonderful insight.

  • wineinthewater

    I think it says something that there is a need to tease obedience out from trust in order to talk about faith. Obedience really is a part of trust. When we refuse to obey, it is an act of distrust. It takes trust to obey, especially when we are called to do something against our inclinations or personal opinions.
    But we as a society do not value obedience, and as a consequence, we have damaged our trust, damaged our faith.

  • TeaPot562

    The middle prayer of the group taught by St. Faustina has been rendered as
    “Through the most sorrowful passion of Jesus, have mercy on me and on the whole world.”

    Meditation suggests that what merits the mercy is not so much the Suffering of Jesus (which occurred in Spades) but the obedience of Jesus, in subjecting Himself, despite His foreknowledge that He would undergo massive suffering – Scourging at the pillar, Crowning with thorns, Carrying of the Cross and the crucifixion itself. So should we be praying “Through the Obedience of Jesus in subjecting Himself to these tortures and death, have mercy on me and on the world”?
    It was His obedience that won us salvation, was it not?
    TeaPot562

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  • http://chizianeofjesus.blogspot.com Chiziane Hercio

    Hei, what have i too say that has not been said!! WHAT ANY ARTICLE may GOD bless you. Today am PROUD OF GOD because of YOU


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