The Will of God…Fiat voluntas tua
Our Gospel today (Matt 7:21-27) reminds us of the ‘one thing necessary’, the unum necessarium that we also find in Luke 10:42. Matthew shares with us this truth in a slightly different context, with Jesus addressing the discrepancy between doing great things, even in Jesus’ name, and the actual desire of God. This points to a few important principles for Christian living.
One principle that we can note is how blind we can be to the motive of our own actions. Even while we are do something ‘good’, like prophesy, or exorcism, or ‘mighty deeds’, it can be an act of our own choosing, our own willfulness, done for reasons that we aren’t even aware of. As I write this article, I’ve just returned from Honduras with several groups from St. Stephen's. This Gospel is a good check on the euphoria of doing something ‘good’. Who could argue that helping orphans is not God’s will? There are few things clearer in the scriptures than the call to help ‘widows and orphans’. St. James writes, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” (James 1:27)
Still there can be a loving that meets my own need to ‘be loving’. Thomas Merton said something to the effect that the last stage of the spiritual life was to let go of ‘loving’. Now this does not mean to stop loving, but we ought to love others ultimately for God’s sake. Let’s look at Luke 10:42 for a moment to see how this plays out in a common situation. In the story of Mary and Martha where Martha is ‘burdened with much serving’, she asks Our Lord to make her sister help her. Jesus protects Mary’s seeming inactivity by saying that she had actually “chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.” This protection has been extended throughout the centuries by the Church’s Canon Laws which regulate contemplative life with great esteem.
This seeming inactivity on Mary’s part, sitting “beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak,” is genuine activity. Listening is a concrete act. Unfortunately in our busy culture listening can become a lost art. We can too easily become addicted to speaking. Remember the Proverb, “Where there is much talk, there is much sin.” (Proverbs 10:19) And who else is better to listen to than Our Lord Himself. It is from Him that we receive our mission. It is from Him that we receive the healing necessary to truly love selflessly. It is from Him that we learn how to remain connected to heaven and draw others into that union.
Making listening a priority however does not excuse the listener from activity. The Lord makes real requests during prayer time that obligate one to true charity. Our love of neighbor must grow apace with our love for God. In fact, love of neighbor is considered a crucial indicator of authentic prayer by the great master, St. Teresa of Avila. But the listener recognizes their Master’s voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd leading his ewes with care. If we want our ‘mighty deeds’ to come from God and obtain true merit for ourselves, then they have to be ordered by the Holy Spirit. As our Gospel says, “only the one who does the will of [Jesus'] Father in heaven” “will enter the kingdom of heaven.”
How do we find this will of the Father? Only through a personal relationship obtained by prayer, study and obedience to conscience. While that is not always easy, Jesus has promised, “Seek and you shall find.” Seeking His will is essential for the Christian, both as an act of obedient love and also for salvation itself. Are we doing His will today? To begin with, seeking His will is doing His will. St. Teresa of Avila used to pray 50 times a day, “What is your will, Lord?” In this will, resides infinite love. St. Alphonsus De Liguori writes in his Uniformity with
God’s Will (http://www.ccel.org/ccel/alphonsus/uniformity.iii.html),
Perfection is founded entirely on the love of God: “Charity is the bond of perfection (Col. 3:14)” and perfect love of God means the complete union of our will with God’s: “The principal effect of love is so to unite the wills of those who love each other as to make them will the same things" (St. Denis Areop). It follows then, that the more one unites his will with the divine will, the greater will be his love of God. Mortification, meditation, receiving Holy Communion, acts of fraternal charity are all certainly pleasing to God-but only when they are in accordance with his will.
We should not be caught unawares on the last day if we practice real prayer, where God can inform us of our iniquities and our weaknesses and lead us accordingly into verdant pastures. Then our works flow from the Charity of charities and are pleasing to God.
- ▼ March (5)