Will of God


God’s Will and the Power of God’s Word

(Is 55:10-11; Ps 34; Mt 6:7-15)


Will of God and Word of God – two expressions that capture the essence of today’s readings.

They present us with a clear message: listen to God’s Word and strive to do God’s will.

The first reading speaks eloquently about the Word of God – how it comes forth from the Father to accomplish the will of the Father in the world, and that it does so eventually, one way or the other, as surely as the rain waters the earth and makes growth possible before it evaporates and returns to the heavens.

As Thomas Keating puts it, the Word of God and the Spirit are able to penetrate our being deeper than the unconscious and bring about healing beyond what the best counseling could accomplish, through a sort of “divine therapy.” There is a call here for us to enter more deeply into contemplative prayer, just being in the presence of the Word, like Mary of Bethany, and soak up God’s love.

Regarding the will of God, we know from the Gospel of John that Jesus is the Word made flesh, one with the Father and sent by the Father to reveal to us the depth of the Father’s love. That he would do by being totally faithful to the will of the Father, even if that meant giving his life for us on the cross.

All of the gospels, from this perspective, have one aim – to show how Jesus, the Word of God, by his birth, life, passion, death and resurrection, was totally faithful to the Father and accomplished the Father’s will.

Turning to the gospel of Matthew that we have just proclaimed, we see Jesus teaching the disciples, and us, not only how to pray, but also how to do the will of God in our turn.

The first part of this beautiful prayer, the Our Father, is all about God – the holiness of God, the kingdom of God that Jesus came to inaugurate among us, and the way that kingdom will come about – when humanity finally begins to behave and act here on earth as we will be acting and behaving in heaven. What an awesome privilege – that we have a hand in making the kingdom of heaven a reality here and now, simply by doing the Father’s will.

There is a shift in the second part of the prayer, towards us and how we can accomplish the will of the Father. We are to learn to live one day at a time, and to be content with what we need for that day. Above all, we are to forgive those who hurt us from the heart, as the Father has forgiven us.

In Chapter 18 of his gospel, Matthew shows us how to forgive. In this chapter, Jesus tells us not to react in kind when hurt, by fighting, fleeing or freezing, but rather simply go to those who have hurt us, alone, and communicate with love. That is, let them know how we feel about their hurtful behavior, with no attempt at revenge, getting even or punishment. We can let them know we are trying to forgive them, and then let it go, give it to God and move on with our lives, less burdened by anger or resentment.

The last two lines of the Our Father brings us to the recent discussion, initiated by Pope Francis it seems, about changing the translation of the prayer to eliminate any implication that God might “lead us into temptation” which God of course would never do.

The translation here, “do not bring us to the time of trial,” is more accurate than the word “temptation,” and would solve that problem. This “time of trial” is the test of faith Jesus experienced on the cross – the “apparent absence of God.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” was his cry. That comes from the opening lines of Psalm 22 that graphically describes the sufferings of a servant of God that includes the feeling that God is nowhere around.

Victims of sexual abuse can identify with that, as they cry out, “Where was God when this happened to me?” The answer is that God in Jesus was right there, not taking away their pain, but experiencing the pain with them, and giving them the strength that they need to handle that pain as Jesus handled it – through forgiveness.

But more important, that experience of the apparent absence of God is actually a blessing given to those with strong faith, like St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta, who had that experience of dryness in prayer ever since she began her ministry to the poor and dying of Calcutta. It was a testimony to her faith, reflected in the ending of psalm 22 that is a tremendous declaration of praise for God who hears our prayers and delivers us in the end.

We have all had mini-experiences of that test or trial, but usually it would be too much for us, so Jesus gave us a prayer to cover that reality – those lines in the Our Father that ask God not to lead us to that test, or to “the time of trial.” From this perspective, there would be no need to change the translation at all because it makes perfect sense.

A religious sister once confided with me, in the middle of a celebration of her 50th anniversary of religious life, a quiet quandary – she felt kind of down and not like celebrating at all, and that was really bothering her. I asked her if she was depressed, and she replied no – she just felt kind of sad in a puzzling kind of way. I suggested that because her faith lived through a half century of religious life was so strong, she might be experiencing the same test or trial as Jesus on the cross and St. Mother Theresa of Calcutta. In that sense, she was being blessed, even though it did not feel like it. That remark immediately lifted her spirits and empowered her to return to her celebration with greater understanding of what was going on. She was being led to the “time of trial” and that was okay.

The Eucharist is a celebration of the test that Jesus underwent on the cross for our sake, and also a source of strength to help us negotiate any time of trial that may come our way and see it as a blessing, not a problem.

So, may our celebration strengthen our faith in the power of the Word of God to forgive and heal us, help us to do God’s will each day, and empower us to accept any testing of our faith that we may encounter along the way.

Updated: February 20, 2024 — 1:32 am

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