Two Wills, His and Mine
Mother M. Angelica
CONTENTS

Attitudes

The Struggle

Following Our Own Will

The Influence

The World

The Flesh

The Enemy

Reaction to His Will

Desiring His Will

Knowing God's will

Living in His Will

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ATTITUDES

The most awesome gift God has given each human being is freedom of Will—the ability to accomplish—to act—to say yes or no to temptation, to the call of holiness, to any state in life and even to God.

Hell is a place of the eternal "No" to God by those whose Wills are forever set against Him. The Will is truly an awesome gift when it can reject its Creator.

There are some who boast of having a "strong" will and others who pretend they possess a weak one.

People who have acquired a habit of sin say they cannot stop when in reality they will not stop.

A strong Will can drive a man to extremes in any field and give him the strength and courage to do the impossible.

Will power is man's greatest gift and both God and Satan strive to possess it. God says "Unite it to Mine and I will give you Heaven" and Satan says, "Give it to me and I will give you the world." The one is an eternal life of joy, the other an eternity of misery and both are acquired by an act of the Will.

God strives to strengthen man's Will by suffering, trials and disappointments. The crosses in our lives provide the necessary tools that shape and reshape our Wills. The opposite is true of the Enemy. Satan strives to give us everything we desire whenever we desire it. His approach is to say, "do as you please when you please," knowing that our Will is weakened each time we oppose the Author of all Good.

God asks us to unite our Will to His. Since He is Goodness and Wisdom Itself, by conforming our moment to moment existence to His plan, we become holy, happy and develop a strong Will—one that is united to God. It is a matter of two Wills becoming one Will. If a spark becomes one with a fire, it disappears completely and all one sees is a brilliant blaze. What was in itself a mere flicker becomes a light for all to see.

Jesus was constantly reminding His Apostles that the path to holiness was a matter of a union of Wills—God's and the soul's. Of Himself He said, "I have come from heaven not to do my own Will, but the Will of the One who sent Me." (Jn. 6:37,38)

This then is the role of every human being. The Father gave us all a power to say yes or no to Him. In a deliberate choice between ourselves and Him, we have the power to make ourselves one with Him by accepting His Will or to stand alone by doing our own Will.

A spark that is flung away from the fire soon dies out, for its source of heat and energy is gone. When we unite our Will to the Will of God, we share in His love and that love in us bears fruit in abundance. This act of self-sacrifice makes us a part of everything that is good. On the other hand, when we reject the Will of God, we stand alone, subject to the temptation of the

Enemy and drinking deeply of the bitter water of our own selfishness. We become. like a man alone in a rudderless boat, desperately trying to steer a straight course with his hands on a single oar.

Man's entire life—his moment to moment existence—is made up of choices. His thoughts and actions are constantly being directed by a powerful Will. No matter what thought crosses his mind, it is his Will that decides whether or not it resides there or whether it will be rejected. No matter how difficult or tedious a task may be, it is the Will putting forth effort that brings success.

There is no weakness of character that cannot be overcome if the person in question Wills to change. There is no tendency to sin that cannot be controlled if the Will is strong.

Men often fail to become holy, not because they lack talent, but because they lack the Will Power to persevere. We do not become holy because we do not want to be holy.

A people can become enslaved under the powerful will of a dictator because they have no will to resist. A dictator can possess the Will of an entire nation to the point of deciding life and death.

A strong Will is something admirable, but if that Will is uncontrolled, it becomes a vehicle for evil. A lack of mental discipline relaxes Will Power and causes us to live entirely on an emotional level. Feelings become the deciding factor in our lives instead of Reason. We become slaves of our own emotions. The earthly trinity of me, myself and I becomes the ruling force of every circumstance. Selfishness and self-indulgence are the desire of the present moment.

This type of existence builds an impenetrable wall around us and no matter where we turn we see only ourselves. Everything is measured by that image. Without a thought of anything but self, the entire world becomes only as large as the fortress we have built around ourselves. We see injustice everywhere because no one possesses the same image of ourselves that we do. The fire of anger ever burns brightly because others who live on a Reason level do not agree with us.

An unbridled Will can lead to a life of frustration and strife. A spirit of arrogance and rebellion are the fruits of an uncontrolled Will.

It is indeed a strange power that can lead a man to extremes to the heights of sanctity, to the depths of hell, to fame and to misfortune.

Every human being has at some time or other clashed with the Will of God or the Will of other men. We seldom think as others do or share the same opinions. The result of this constant clash of ideas can result in a stronger adherence to our own Will. We can nourish our Will much as a woman nourishes her baby. A constant diet of self-will feeds our pride and the result is the same as overeating—our pride grows out of proportion to our intelligence and the result is disastrous. We make unreasonable demands and become slaves to ourselves.

We can create our own concentration camp where we are both jailer and prisoner, prosecutor and defendant, oppressor and oppressed. Our will can make life a heaven or hell and only we have the power to choose one or the other path.

Men may make demands, nations require sacrifices and society place restrictions on us, but in the final analysis we decide whether we meet demands, make sacrifices or are constrained by restrictions.

No man is perfectly free. He must abide by civil laws that keep order in a disordered society. Refusal to obey those laws causes penalties in one way or another. Everywhere we go there is someone telling us what to do and promising some disastrous result if we do not comply. We are told by labels how to wash clothing, press suits, bake cakes, fix washers and set clocks.

We are advised how to use an electric blanket, take medicine, eat meals, lie in the sun and survive in the desert. We are forced to listen to loud music in public places, jack hammers, jet planes and police sirens.

Newsmen and publishers decide what we hear and what we read. Unknown to us our Wills are constantly being influenced, directed and sometimes forced into action.

We accept all this with a kind of numb serenity. We are half aware of this outside influence, half unconcerned and totally willing to accept. the inevitable.

We are willing to be imposed upon by everyone but God. When He demands anything against our Will, we rebel at the injustice of this infringement on our freedom.

We never question the right of civil authority to impose punishment for crimes committed—especially when we are the victims. However, we question the right of God to correct our erring ways and rebel at the pain incurred.

Men lose fortunes in business, gambling and other enterprises and begin again with hope and confidence, but if God takes away a loved one to enjoy a better life, or health to increase eternal glory, they balk, despair and lose heart.

What do we call an attitude where man is right and God is wrong—where man knows what is best for him and God does not—where man is the ruler of his own destiny and God merely an onlooker? We call that attitude Pride and when man's Will is proud—it will not follow—it leads itself into whatever path it pleases. Self-Will becomes the ruling factor of life and God's Will is rejected. Self-Will is a dim guiding light and is bright only to those who live in darkness.

This tendency to live by our own light is in the heart of every human being. We prefer to see something real, to accomplish something visible and to determine a course of action with foreseeable results. To patiently wait for an Invisible God to plan and execute our present and future, is difficult for our human nature. Without grace from God, it would be impossible to attain that Faith so necessary to release our lives and future to His Provident care—to believe that what is happening to us at this moment is in our best interests.

Though our feelings may rebel and our Intellect be unable to comprehend God's Will, it is only important that we accomplish that Will.

We should work towards the day when we will actually desire and want only God's will in our lives, but we must be patient with ourselves as we fall and stumble toward holiness, as we vacillate in motive and purpose, and as we strive and yet consistently fall away from our best resolutions.

THE STRUGGLE

Man is capable of heroic sacrifice and he accomplishes these feats of endurance best when he wants to do them with all his heart. Sacrifices that are imposed against his Will, rob him of the spirit so necessary to do great things. A mother thinks nothing of caring for a sick child day and night. A stranger would feel it a great sacrifice. He would not manifest those tender acts of thoughtfulness that make nursing so Christlike.

Love moves the Will in whatever direction love takes. If our love is self-oriented, our actions will be geared toward self-satisfaction only. Unless our Will is directed toward a higher good, we shall not reach our potential. No matter what great things we accomplish in the world it will be as nothing if our motive for good and great works is selfish.

St. Paul reminded us of this when he said that if we gave everything we possessed to the poor without love it would be nothing. It is disheartening to realize it is possible to deprive ourselves of our most prized possessions and it is as nothing before God. Certainly our Will is determined and strong when we accomplish good works. How then could it be nothing in the Eyes of God? (I Cor. 13:3)

The struggle within does not lie in the strength of our Will but in the prime mover of that Will. What is our motive for doing what we do?

Jesus told us that if we do good works to be seen by men we have received our reward. (Matt. 6:1-2) What were Jesus and Paul telling us when they pulled the rug from under our complacent attitudes?

They were both saying the same thing and we need to see why it is possible to be kind and generous and not be doing the Will of God. Certainly kindness and generosity are fruits of the Spirit, but they can also be natural fruits-fruits of our own desire for praise and glory.

The guiding force of all our actions should be to please God, manifest our love for Him and aid our neighbor.

Whatever self-gratification there may be in our works it is secondary—a fringe benefit enjoyed but not sought after. The determining factor is the love of God, not personal glory. This is difficult to attain and only His grace can make us rise above ourselves and seek only Him.

When our Will is directed to the honor and glory of God above our own, we have peace of mind. The constant friction between our Will and God's leads to most of the unhappiness in our lives. We can understand this better if we draw a verbal picture of ourselves alienated from His Will.

FOLLOWING OUR OWN WILL

In the parable of the Prodigal son we find an excellent example of Self-Will. Here we see a son who demands his inheritance before the father's death. The boy had deliberated a long time and insisted that he be given his share immediately. His Will was set on fun and games and he refused to work and labor long years before he could enjoy his father's wealth. This seemed logical and reasonable to him and this false sense of righteousness made him more and more determined to get his due and leave home.

He began to experience a strange sense of freedom—an arrogant freedom built on possessions, an uncontrolled freedom that was like a runaway horse. He accumulated friends quickly and then, tiring of them, found others who pleased him more.

Every twinge of conscience was smothered by more "riotous" living. He justified every action by inventing new phrases that made everything he did seem right. Drinking was "real living," dissipation became "his human nature," lying and cheating became a "battle of wits," lording over the weak became "survival of the fittest," goodness became "obnoxious and old-fashioned," arrogance became "strength" and irresponsibility became the "freedom to do as he pleased."

This state of body and soul was soon a way of life and all went well for a short time. There were times no doubt when his better nature reproached him and a weak call to change took hold of his heart, but any desire to be better was quickly subdued and he went on day after day in "riotous living." Finally, when his money was gone, his popularity diminished. He was in need—he could no longer fulfill the selfish cravings of his friends. One by one they left him and any plea for help on his part was met with scorn and rejection. Only then did he look into his Will and seethe direction he had taken—only then did he see the folly of his ways—only then did his soul long for the warmth of his father's love—the security of home and the abundant table of his father's house.

His reason returned and he realized that his father's servants were better off than he in every way. Suffering began to do the work that affluence had destroyed. His Will began to guide his life with a properly directed Reason. His poverty cleared the fog of his emotions and he could see the world and himself in a new light.

This account is not far-fetched today for there are many in this state of dissipated living—enslaved "freedom", uncontrolled passions and lethargic indifference and only the suffering of privation and failure will set their feet on the right path and direct their Will to their Father.

The battle of Wills rages on between man and God, goodness and evil, love and hate. The question is—who tells us what to do? Whose voice do we listen to? Who directs our steps? Whose example is a guiding power in our lives? We desire to be the master of our fate and sole director of our lives as we are totally unaware of our inabilities, the enemies that surround us or the path to follow.

THE INFLUENCE

Outside forces beyond our control continually battle for our Will and attention. Our Human Nature seeks its own satisfaction in everything. The World besieges us with false attitudes and the Enemy seeks ever to deceive us by giving evil the appearance of good. It may be well to look at these three influences to see how they affect our lives.

THE WORLD

"I passed my word on to them and the world hated them because they belong to the world no more than I belong to the world. I am not asking you to remove them from the world but to protect them from the evil one." (Jn. 17:14-15)

We must make a distinction between the "world," meaning our immediate surroundings and the attitudes of mankind in the world.

As God created His "world", Genesis tells us that after each "day", each epoch, God saw that it was good—it still is good. The seasons as they come and go, timed by an invisible clock, thrill our souls. Mountains and waterfalls make us stand in awe at the grandeur of God. The sun and moon are like silent sentinels guarding us from darkness and cold. All this good and the thought of leaving it at death makes both saint and sinner feel lonely, but these things do not constitute the "world" for they are all inanimate creatures.

It is the attitudes of people that constitute the "world" and it is this collective attitude of a particular part of the world that decides the ungodly spirit that permeates the conscience of men and turns them away from God. This collective attitude, fed by selfishness, can decide that something evil is good. We find this in the mass murder of members of various races and religions.

The Commandments become unbearable burdens that belong to the unenlightened generations of the past or to the people whose needs were small and whose intelligence did not face the demands of human nature. Sin becomes a fact hidden in the history of the past and non-existent in the modern vocabulary. As Pilate asked, "What is truth?", the world asks "What is sin?" In this way sin becomes an attitude of mind—an offense against one's neighbor at its worst—but never an offense against God.

The world cannot acknowledge that when man offends another man he offends God and when he offends God, he offends his neighbor. The Mystical Body, whose head is Christ, is a tightly knit organism—sensitive to the least pain—rejoicing at the least bit of happiness. One cannot isolate any part of it or separate it from the whole Body.

When a Christian is bombarded with attitudes of pursuing pleasure at any cost, independence from society and alienation from God and the acquisition of money, he must choose between these allurements and goodness, sin and holiness, God and the world.

Jesus reminded us of the desire for worldly possessions when He said, "No servant can be the slave of two masters: he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave of God and money."

"The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and laughed at Him. He said to them, "You are the very ones who pass yourselves off as virtuous in people's sight, but God knows your hearts. For what is thought highly of by men is loathsome in the sight of God." (Luke 16:12-15)

It is a frightening thought to ponder—the things we cling to, covet and pursue as "good" may be an abomination to God. Wealth and the acquisition of worldly power are counted by God as nothing in relation to the kingdom. Unfortunately the possession of these things is something visible, while spiritual riches are invisible. Man is tempted by what he sees, hears, smells, tastes and touches. He is called to higher things by invisible, intangible yearnings, urges from the Supreme Being and knowledge that there is something somewhere better than he sees and feels here in this world. However, unless his Faith is strong, the loud noise of what he hears drowns out the soft voice of God and Conscience. The things he sees ever beckon to him to feast and rest his eyes on the things that pass. It is difficult to push against such tremendous odds, but the gentle breeze of God will quiet the whirling wind of temptation if we cling to what we know is the most perfect way.

THE FLESH

"It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer." (Jn. 6:63)

Along with outside forces there is within our very being, weaknesses, frailties, inclinations, passions and assorted evil tendencies that make being good seem a far off goal.

We find it easier to be bad than good, angry than gentle, resentful than merciful. Each one of us has some particular weakness that towers overall our other frailties and causes us to fall. Some are proud and find humility and obedience difficult. Some are greedy and find generosity with their time, talent or goods very difficult. Some are cold and indifferent and find loving their neighbor a trying experience. The list of human weaknesses could go on and on but one thing is positive—we must overcome these weaknesses in our souls.

It is in this area we find the cross. We can see and sense outside influences, so our decisions can be clearer, but when our choices between good and evil stem from our own inner being, it is not always clear. Our weaknesses are so much a part of us we are seldom aware of their existence or influence. Our personality is affected by them, making a complete conversion nearly impossible.

Even those who have been blessed by God with sudden conversions or the overcoming of serious weaknesses, find themselves beset with temptations in one area or another and continue to fight against their faults in spite of their conversion.

Perhaps one of the greatest crosses in our lives is to observe the reaction of other people to our personality and weaknesses. We all arouse the faults of others in one way or another and we do this most of the time without knowing or meaning to do so. Friction between various temperaments provides the self-knowledge we all need in order to change. This self-knowledge is not always desirable or accepted and as a result we go through life with neither the light to see ourselves nor the courage to accept ourselves.

We tend to remove ourselves from people and situations that mirror our own souls. No matter where we go we will find ourselves and our weaknesses at work—rising, falling and rising again—meeting those whose friendship somehow brings out the best in us and others whose very presence has the power to draw out the worst in us.

There is in the depths of our being the desire to be good and to be holy, but from that same being rises a cry of rebellion—a spirit of independence that desires to answer to no one. These two spirits challenge each other, fight each other, conquer each other and almost destroy each other in the depths of our souls. There are times we are surprised by the heights of our holy desires and other times horrified by the depths of evil into which we could fall.

St. Paul painted a vivid picture of this state when he said, "I cannot understand my own behavior. I fail to carry out the things I want to do and I find myself doing the very things I hate .... for though the will to do what is good is in me, the performance is not.... every single time I want to do good, it is something evil that comes to hand." (Rom. 7:16,18,21) Every day we face our greatest foe—ourselves—and every day God fills us with His grace that we may rise above the things that pull us down and make us forget our dignity as sons of God.

God uses every scrap of our weaknesses and somehow turns them into good. St. Paul assured us of this when he said, "We know that by turning everything to their good, God cooperates with those who love Him." (Rom. 8:28) We need to keep this truth in mind when our human nature seems out to destroy us.

With all our desires to be good and holy there is in our soul that constant struggle between what we are and what we want to be. Why did God leave us with the consequence of original sin after His Divine Son redeemed us and His Spirit gave us a new birth? For some mysterious reason—a reason above our intelligence—God preferred to give us an example of how to overcome rather than take away our frailties. He preferred to have poor weak human beings overcome His archenemy by the power of the Spirit living in them. He thought it more noble to change by free choice than by being free of weaknesses. He wanted us to share the triumph of victory over sin rather than freedom from pain.

He knew our need for Him would be constant as we strove ever so feebly to be good. He saw in that striving tremendous growth, strength, determination and courage—all of which would be lacking without the struggle. He saw the Enemy humiliated by the fruit of virtue winning over the inclination to sin. Although this knowledge is encouraging and helpful to us it is easily forgotten as we struggle on in the battle between vice and virtue.

Sin is painted by the Enemy and the world as something good; our weaknesses are presented to us as just a part of being human. The consequence of this thinking is disastrous. We fail to see the necessity of pain and sacrifice to attain virtue. We look at God in a spirit of arrogance as if He had no right to ask us to struggle in order to overcome, to suffer in order to change, to fall in order to be humble, to fail in order to be grateful and to be weak in order to do great things.

We do not see our pride because we think we are self-sufficient We do not see our total dependence on Him because we only see our own strength. We do not see Him as the only source of Goodness because we are so content with our own acts of kindness.

Our weaknesses make us rebel against His Goodness and our goodness makes us attribute virtue to ourselves. We are caught between what we are, what we think we are and what He wants us to be.

There are times our weaknesses overpower every semblance of good in us and all seems hopeless. Then suddenly, His grace fills us with strength and light and we rise above ourselves. It is during these times that we can look back and see the fruit God brought forth from our failures and a feeling of assurance fills our souls like the calm after a storm.

God's Will at moments like these is "good" in our eyes. Humility enlightens the mind to see a tiny glimpse of the Wisdom of God. However, it is only a short time before the third Enemy tempts the soul for he sees progress in holiness and his hatred turns to fury.

THE ENEMY

"Be calm but vigilant, because your Enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith." (I Peter 5:8,9) The words "calm" and "vigilant" describe important attitudes in our fight against this third Tempter in our lives—the devil. Though his presence should be the most obvious, his tactics are so devious and his snares so subtle, many believe he does not exist. However, Jesus, Scripture and daily experience prove otherwise—he exists and is very much alive.

His favorite place of temptation is our Memory and Imagination. The Memory is the only faculty of our soul over which he can have power. This power we ourselves give him in proportion to how much we permit that faculty to be influenced by him. He has no access to our Intellect or Will unless we open the doors to these two faculties to him. He tempts us but we make the choice to permit him entrance to the soul.

This is why Jesus asked us to bless our enemies, do good to those who offend us and forgive seventy times seventy. It is very important that bitterness, rancor, hatred, revenge and depression do not get possession of our Memory. The Enemy's tactics are very subtle in this area, in fact almost imperceptible. He makes us feel we always have a legitimate excuse for hating or not forgiving. Our feelings of revenge or bitterness look so just and right that these feelings become imbedded in our very being. They can become so much a part of us that we do not recognize them for what they are—dangerous attitudes designed by the Enemy to destroy us—inspired by the Enemy to mold our souls into his image—an image of hate and confusion.

We are not always conscious of his influence because our feelings are being nourished by what the Enemy considers Truth, but we must remember the "truth is not in him." (Jn. 8:44) When we are offended he brings out the evident fact of that offense and makes us feel perfectly justified in our resentment and pride. So much so that we quote Scripture to substantiate our feelings. We find those who are resentful and revengeful quoting "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." (Exod. 21:24) Those who have moral problems quote Our Lord's merciful treatment of the woman taken in adultery. "Has no one condemned you? .... Neither do I condemn you." (Jn 8:10,11) Drunkards excuse their bad habits by reminding everyone that Jesus and His disciples drank wine. Those who indulge in frequent bouts of anger quote the passage showing Jesus making a whip and driving out the money changers from the Temple. We look and the Enemy makes us find, whatever Scripture passage, excuse, or reason we need for harboring evil in our hearts. He wants our bitterness to appear as natural as possible—only a part of being human—and then slowly the venom of evil takes possession of our hearts and we become blind to all goodness.

Perhaps one of the greatest temptations of the Enemy is lethargy and a feeling of complacency. This lazy, self-satisfied attitude can destroy our souls faster than more obvious temptations. Big weaknesses that attract the attention of others are often overcome by human respect. We are humiliated when others see our true self and we put forth more effort to overcome. But spiritual lethargy is not as noticeable and is hidden under the guise of being too busy to pray and totally convinced we are exerting our utmost for the kingdom.

We tell ourselves and others that we are doing our very best and nothing else is required. This is the very attitude the Pharisee had in the Temple. He was perfectly satisfied with himself and his efforts to glorify God. There was no question in his mind that in the order of merit he was on top. Jesus condemned his attitude and told the shocked crowd, listening to this account, that the man went away satisfied with himself but displeasing to the Father. (Luke 18:14)

The Publican in the back of the Temple, who was unhappy with himself, acknowledging his inadequacy and realizing there was much to be done, went away pleasing to God. He saw himself, admitted his sinner condition, asked God for help and went away looking forward to the future, not backward to what was accomplished. He would not rest in the past as the Pharisee did. He would change and depend upon the mercy of God to uphold him.

The great deception in the Pharisee's conduct was the appearance of good—good conduct, good works, good morals. We must keep in mind that here, deep in the recesses of the soul, self-satisfaction had long ruled as Master. Good deeds were accomplished for the sake of self glory, not the glory of God. God was merely an onlooker who somehow should be grateful to the Pharisee for being so generous.

When we act as if we were the source of our talents and accomplishments, we can be sure the "father of lies" has accomplished his work. However, complacency is not the only temptation the Enemy places in our path. There are thoughts of envy over another's goods, jealousy over another's talents, gluttony in taste and inordinate attachment to things and people. Yes, love itself can be used against us. We can love someone so much that life and happiness depend upon that person. Fear and insecurity can grip a soul in that condition and deprive it of any joy or peace. Life becomes a nightmare whenever our lives are wrapped up in the things that change and pass away.

The Enemy makes us feel there is more security in the visible than the invisible, more love in what feels good than in the cross that is disagreeable. He turns and twists everything around and away from God, enhances the need for pleasure and increases our disgust for the cross. He whispers in our ear that this world is all there is so he can deprive us of possessing the place he lost in the kingdom.

It is easy to see that his disguises are so well planned we run the risk of not recognizing him at all and this is without doubt his most clever tool. Only death will tear off his mask and show us his influence in our lives. We must pray and ask the Spirit within us to give us discernment now—in this life so we may ever be aware of his disguises and deceptions.

We must "make our home" in Jesus, whose Presence in our souls surrounds us with a protective shield against the hatred of the Enemy. We will become sensitive to his temptations and see his actions clearly. With this perception we will be able to make the right choices and bear good fruit, "fruit that lasts." (Jn. 15:16)

REACTION TO HIS WILL

The angels must look upon us with astonishment as we question and rebel against God's Will in our lives. Perhaps a good comparison for our attitudes in this regard is to imagine an ant looking up at a giant and saying, "I can see more than you see. I know more than you know and I can do more than you can do." The thought of such a scene brings laughter to our hearts and a sense of the ridiculous. But is it? How many of us are not guilty of just such an action as we complain and rebel against God's Will?

What we are really saying to God in our rebellion is that we know better than He does, the things that are for our happiness in this life and necessary for our salvation. There is hardly a cross we accept with Hope, knowing it is for our good. Nor do we accept pain or tragedy, understanding that His love will bring good out of it.

We are consistent in our insistence that we are always right and He is wrong. However, we find no trouble in accepting the opinions of those with a higher degree of intelligence than our own. We trust a surgeon with our life because he understands our illness and is able to heal it. We trust the opinions and facts presented to us by scientists concerning planets, stars, atoms, medicine and electronics. We do this without the least comprehension on our part of what they say or mean. We only know they are experts in a particular field beyond our intelligence or education, so our trust is complete. Isn't it strange that we do not give God the same courtesy?

There is a difference between not understanding God's Will and questioning God's Will. We see this clearly in the Gospel narrative of Mary and Zechariah. (Luke 1:18-34) Zechariah, hearing from the angel that his wife would bear a son, questioned God's Will and said, "How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is getting on in years." The whole thing seemed impossible to Zechariah and he could not see the possibility of such a miracle. Everything seemed against it. He questioned God's power and wisdom. Mary, however only wondered how God would fulfill the message He had given her. She asked for direction. There was no question in her heart, only how she could fulfill His wishes.

We see here that our lack of ability to comprehend God's Will is an act of humility on our part, but our questioning the wisdom of His Will is pride. The former says, "My mind is too small to see beyond my own little world, but I will do Your Will because I know You desire only what is for my good." The latter says, "Why did You let this happen? This is not just; this is not fair. My way would have been better; why didn't You answer my prayers?" This is the ant correcting the giant!

God is not displeased if we find it hard to accomplish His Will even when we understand it. We see this example in Matt. (Matt. 21:28) "A man had two sons," Jesus said. "He went and said to the first, 'My boy, you go and work in the vineyard today.' He answered, 'I will not go' but afterwards thought better of it and went. The man then said the same thing to the second son who answered, 'Certainly, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did the father's will? 'The first they said."' When Jesus told us the first son "thought better of it" He was telling us the son's first impulse was to rebel—to say no, but the more he thought about the request, the more his conscience bothered him. Repentance and love for his father made him do the father's will. So it is with us. Our first reaction to God's Will is often a flat "no." This surface "no" is not deep rooted and our loving Father understands. Our merit is enhanced when we find His Will difficult and still accomplish it.

Love makes us conform to God's Will but it doesn't always make it easy. This was so with Jesus Himself in the Garden of Gethsemane. "My Father," He said, "if it is possible, let this cup pass me by. Nevertheless, let it be as You, not I, would have it." (Matt. 26:39) Three times He repeated the same words and three times there was silence. There are no words recorded between the Father and Jesus. We find no dialogue—no yes or no—no explanation—only silence. But that silence spoke volumes to Jesus. It meant, "Go on—it must be this way. Redemption can be accomplished no better way." Jesus did not rebel against the silence—he accepted it with love and determination.

Though Jesus has given us an example, we still do not heed His call to imitation. God's silence to our prayers for help infuriates us and we take that silence as an act of punishment on God's part. We do not take the time to pray as Jesus did"pray the longer" for knowledge and strength to accomplish the Divine plan. Just as an angel came from heaven to give Jesus strength, so in the hours of our fear and distress, God's own Spirit will give us the fortitude we need. (Luke 22:43) But we must have that humble heart so necessary to admit that at this moment we do not know what is best for us—only God knows that hidden mystery.

DESIRING HIS WILL

As we have looked at what our usual reaction to God's Will is, let us look at what Jesus expects it to be. When the Apostles urged Jesus to eat near the well of Samaria, He refused their food and said, "I have a food that you do not know about." So the disciples asked one another, "Has someone been bringing him food? " But Jesus said, "My food is to do the Will of the One who sent me and to complete His work." (Jn. 4:32-35)

The necessity for food implies hunger—a longing for nourishment—a sustenance that promotes strength, energy and growth. This is exactly what God's Will does in our lives.

God's Will is to our soul what food is to our body. It promotes growth in holiness, strength for daily trials, strength to carry the cross and zeal to persevere in our desire for God.

As natural food loses its own identity and is changed into our body with its various organs and functions, so God's Will, as it is united to ours, changes us into living images of His Son. As the seed planted in the ground dies before it grows and bears fruit, so our Will must die to its own desires and bury itself in the Divine Will. Like food it will lose its own identity and become one with God.

This desire to do God's Will must be more than the acceptance of the inevitable. It must be a seeking, finding, uniting experience. "My aim," Jesus told His Apostles, "is to do not my own Will but the Will of Him who sent me." (Jn. 5:30) And when He taught His disciples how to pray He inserted the petition that we be given the grace to accomplish His "Will on earth in the same way it is in heaven." (Matt. 6:10)

The one goal of every Christian is to know and accomplish God's Will and in the same way it is done in heaven—with obedience, promptness and love. We are speaking hereof love of preference—meaning we prefer God's Will over our own, whether or not it is difficult or to our liking.

A union of sonship is established between God and the soul when the two wills become one. This is why Jesus told the crowds one day that His Mother was precious to the Father more because she conformed perfectly to His Will, than by the privilege of being the Mother of His Son. "Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking around at those sitting in a circle about him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who does the Will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:33-35)

Such a reward for conforming to a perfect Will is beyond our imagination. This privilege is for every Christian. We need not envy the Apostles, for our opportunities are as great as theirs. The difference between us and those first followers of Jesus lies not in a lack of opportunities or grace, but in a lack of union with God's Will.

The purpose of our existence is to become a clear image of Jesus by the perfect conformity of our Will to God. Jesus told us, "I have come from heaven not to do my own Will but to do the Will of the One who sent me." We see Jesus saying over and over that His one goal was to do the Father's Will.

God has given us the gift of free will for the purpose of freely choosing Him above ourselves. It is a matter of preference—a matter of love. Love motivates our Will either in the direction of God or ourselves. The successful man is not the one who makes a million dollars, but the one who succeeds in uniting his Will to God. Without God, the successful man may be a slave to his own whims, society and the world while the man whose Will ever lives in God is free.

KNOWING GOD'S WILL

The difficulty most of us experience is not so much in doing God's Will as in simply knowing what that Will is for us. In this regard there are some things we are positive are God's Will, for example: The Commandments—the Ten as given to Moses, the Precepts of the Church, the duties of our state of life, obedience to lawful authority—civil, family and church, and the New Commandment as given by Jesus, to love one another.

In the Gospels we see in many simple ways exactly what the Father expects of us. These are all direct manifestations of the Will of God in our daily lives. Perhaps a list of some of these positive commandments may be of help.

1. "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless
those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly."
(Luke 6:27,35)

2. Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned." (Luke 6: 36,38)

3. "I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)

4. "It is my Father's will that whoever sees the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life." (Jn. 6:40)

5. "Shoulder my yoke and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart." (Matt. 11:29)

6. "Before the world was made, he chose us, chose us in Christ to be holy and spotless, and to live through love in His Presence." (Eph. 1:4)

7. "What God wants is for you all to be holy." (1 Th. 4:2,3,)

Our problem may be that we look upon the Commandments in a rather negative way. They are for the most part "don't" directives in our minds but this is not so. We do not find fault with the inventor of a machine when he gives us directions on how to obtain the best results from what he invented. Who else would know how best a particular machine runs than its inventor! To most of us this is logical and we are willing to follow directions and accept the fact that most equipment is only guaranteed providing directions are properly followed.

This is exactly what God has done in giving us Commandments. They are not the demands of a Creator who makes His creatures ever aware of their subordinate position. The Commandments, given by the Father in the Old and by Jesus in the New Testament, are only directions that say Human Beings He created are happier, healthier and more content when they follow the directions of their Creator.

The Father knows under what conditions our souls grow and mature. He knows what remedies are best for their weaknesses. He knows what steps must be taken to avoid the many obstacles the Enemy strews in our path. Most of all, He knows in what way our souls need to be purified, tempered and transformed so they can one day stand in His awesome Presence and not be annihilated.

The Scriptures are full of revelations telling how the Father wishes us to think and act under every circumstance. Our problem in knowing God's Will then is in the decisions we make in our daily lives. First, it must be said the Commandments mentioned above are part of God's Ordaining Will. There is no question here of what He wants. But the trials of daily life, the evil, suffering, etc. are part of God's Permitting Will.

God's Ordaining Will wants only what is good and holy, but man's free will and the temptations of the Enemy produce other effects that are not good. These effects we suffer from but God, to whom all things are present, sees some good in our endurance of pain and evil and for the sake of a greater good, He permits evil.

St Paul brought this out when he reminded us that to those who love God all things tend to good. (Rom. 8:28) Our dear Lord endured the malice, hatred and finally crucifixion to accomplish God's Will.

We cannot say God ordained that men reject and kill His Son, but knowing beforehand the sentiments of the Chosen People towards His Son's appearance on earth, He permitted their evil dispositions and by His Son's perfect acceptance of these evils, He wrought our Redemption. He ordained that man not fall, but pride rejected that desire. He ordained that man accept His Son, but many did not. In permitting the effects of nonacceptance, the Father saw great good. Man would forever know how much he was loved by God. He would be the recipient of the Spirit, grace, Divine Sonship and finally heaven. All this good was wrapped securely behind the malice of men. God saw it and permitted His Son to suffer grievously in order to break the hold of the Enemy upon mankind and finally destroy death completely by a glorious Resurrection.

The Father has that same love for us and our Faith, Hope and Love must ever burn brightly as we endure the trials He permits in our lives. Trust is the key to accomplishing God's Will. We must trust the Father whose Eyes are ever ahead of us. We cannot see or judge our way in a dense fog, but we can have trust in the Father, who sees all things ahead clearly.

In making our decisions as to a state in life, friends, work, future plans, business ventures, etc. we must first arrive at some guidelines, use the mental faculties God has already given us and pray for guidance. We cannot expect Him to come down in some ecstatic vision and tell us exactly what to do.

Perhaps some guidelines would be to see if the decision we need to make is for the greater honor and glory of God, how does it affect our relationship with Him and are we at peace with it. We can rest assured that if we make our decisions in this light, God will stand by us and bring good out of it even if we see later our decisions were not the most perfect.

Failure is also used by God to bring us closer to Him. He never commanded us to always make the right decisions—only to be holy and that entails a childlike confidence that He will make our crooked ways straight and our faltering steps firm.

When we have an occasion to change friends we already have a criterion to go by. Jesus told us to judge by fruits. Our friends must be chosen not only by the fruit they bear in their own lives but by the fruit we bear in their company. We can arrive at some concept of God's Will in relationship to work by the talents God has given us. What kind of work am I happy doing? If we are not sure, we need to experiment with various types of work until we arrive at that "at home" awareness that this is. what we can do best.

It happens, however, that sometimes we live in a particular situation that was brought about by our own weakness, mistakes, wrong decisions and the evil intentions of our neighbor. Where is God's Will in this? If we have prayed and no solution is at hand, if we try to change the matter and things only get worse, we can be sure that patient endurance is God's Will, at least for the moment. Continuous prayer will bring fortitude and fortitude will bring perseverance, perseverance will bring Hope and that Hope will not be in vain.

St. Paul told the Corinthians, "We are in difficulties on all sides, but never cornered; we see no answer to our problems, but never despair." (2 Cor. 4:8) Even a holy, specially chosen soul such as Paul had moments when God's will was not clear—when everything seemed impossible. This is why one day Paul besought the Lord to relieve him of his multitudinous problems. He began to think God's Will was not in his trials, weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions and the agonies of the Apostolate. (2 Cor. 12:10) So it was that three times he asked for relief and the reply he received reassured him that if it was happening, God's Will would bring good out of it. "My grace," Jesus answered Paul, "is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness." (2 Cor. 12:9) Paul rejoiced at this. It did not lessen his sorrows, but the knowledge that God's grace was with him made him say, "I shall be very happy to make my weaknesses my special boast so that the power of Christ may stay over me." (2 Cor. 12:10)

This is the difference between a pagan and a Christian. To a pagan there is no purpose to suffering. As a result, he lives a life of loneliness and frustration. The Christian may be experiencing much the same trials as the pagan and never lose his joy. He sees God's will in it, sees an opportunity to be like Jesus, and sees greater glory in the kingdom. The pagan's trials are increased by despair and the Christian's lightened by sharing the yoke of Jesus.

Many ask the question, "How do I know this is God's Will for me?" The answer is simply, "If it is happening, it is God's Will. Nothing happens to us that He has not seen beforehand, pondered the good we would derive and put upon it His stamp of approval.

God's Will is manifested to us in the duties and experiences of the present moment. We have only to accept them and try to be like Jesus in them. When Jesus made no answer to Pilate, Pilate said to Him, "Are you refusing to speak to me? Surely, you know I have power to release you and I have power to crucify you." (Jn. 19:10) The reply Jesus made shows us very clearly that Jesus saw the Father's Will in every moment to moment experience, just or unjust. "You would have no power over me, if it had not been given you from above." (Jn. 19:11) Jesus saw the Father in a weak, unjust judge. How many of us have that kind of confidence—that kind of insight!

St. Peter encourages the Christians of his day to "accept the authority of every social institution; the emperor as the supreme authority and the governors ... God wants us to be good citizens .... have respect for everyone .... and honor the emperor." (1 Peter 2:13-16) We are all aware of the fact that Peter was speaking here of Nero, whose wickedness is well known. However, it goes without saying that if lawful authority demands a rejection of God or God's Commandments, we must choose God before all else.

God did not redeem us in order to place us in some kind of earthly Utopia. He redeemed us to give us a kingdom, to make us adopted sons, to give us everlasting joy, to witness to the world the existence of another life and to prove by our personal conversion that Jesus is the Son of God.

St. Paul assures us that all the suffering in the world is not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to come." (Rom. 8:18)

Every moment of life is like a sacrament in which we can receive God. It is a channel through which God speaks to us, forms us and directs us. We have only to accept the duties of the present moment to find God's Will. We are hampered in breathing this supernatural air by the fact we see only people and circumstances, brought about by the malice or temperaments of others. They become obstacles in our path and prevent us from seeing God.

We cannot see God in their actions because these actions are opposed to His Ordaining Will. However, we can see God through these actions, like seeing a beloved friend through a dense fog. In that fog we may still stumble and fall, cry and despair at times, but that Figure ever beckons us forward to a greater light beyond.

The secret then in finding God's Will is to see Him in the present moment and react to that Presence in as loving a way as we can. It takes a little effort to see God in everything, but Jesus did just that and His complete obedience won our salvation.

There are times when we need to make "on the spot" decisions—occasions when there is hardly time for a prayer. In these circumstances we can be sure that if our heart has been with God up to that moment, we will make the correct move. If we fail, our hope in His Love assures us He will bring good out of it.

God does not want us to fret and worry about yesterday or tomorrow. We read in St. Matthew's Gospel that Jesus said, "Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matt. 6:33,34) Here is a call from Jesus to live in the present moment. Jesus is not telling us that as Christians we will be trouble free. He is telling us to bear our yoke with Him and do it on a moment to moment basis. If we exercise ourselves in this kind of living, we will have the presence of mind to see His Will and the strength to do it.

There is no blueprint—no certain way of knowing the Will of God in our material decisions. Our God-given intellect and the discernment of His Spirit living in our hearts, will give us the necessary tools to make better than average correct decisions. Sometimes His permitting Will allows our failures to exercise our Faith, increase our Hope and cause us to cling to Him as our Friend in need.

There will be times His Will is so cloudy in our minds and the path so uncertain, that we are forced to choose the least doubtful path and hope for the best. All our peace in these circumstances comes from the deep realization, still alive among dying embers, that God is our Father and He will take care.

God is not the tyrant we find the world to be. He is satisfied with sincere effort to know and accomplish His Will. He will crown these efforts with success though all seems lost.

LIVING IN HIS WILL

The first step in our efforts to glorify God is to know God's will. The second step, however, is the most important and that is: how do we live in that Will—how do we fulfill it—how do we accomplish that Will with joy?

To do this we must look at the life of Jesus. Jesus saw in every facet of His life, the Will of His Father. He seemed preoccupied with it. When He spoke, He told the crowds the words He spoke were the Father's words. When He healed, He told them He only did the "work" of the Father. When He was in pain, He saw the love of the Father for mankind permitting Him to suffer in order to redeem us.

Perhaps the most helpful comment Jesus made about the Father's Will was when He said it was His food. Though each person's state in life is different, each one's work and mission are different, the one common goal we should all desire is that of living in His Will—not just accomplishing it—but, like Jesus living in it. It should be the food and nourishment of our souls.

Jesus saw the Father in everything. When trials and heartaches came His way He saw opportunities to offer a pleasing sacrifice to the Father. He also saw the opportunity to confound the Enemy of His Father.

Every time the Pharisees embarrassed Him in front of the crowds, He practiced some virtue to an heroic degree. Opportunities that the Enemy provoked which would ordinarily call forth anger, hatred and resentment in most of us, Jesus reacted to in the opposite way. His reactions would be silent or gentle. Even the few times He lashed out at the Pharisees and called them hypocrites, He did so with the intention of enlightening the people and pricking the consciences of those who had strayed from the path of integrity.

Every moment of life gave Jesus opportunities to act as man in a God-like way. He paved the way for each one of us to use the gifts of the present moment in a God-like fashion. He merited His Spirit to live in our souls so we would be able to do the same things He did.

His whole life on earth spoke of living in the Father's will in a hundred different ways. The Father was constantly calling forth in Jesus some facet of His own perfections—perfections visible for us to see, admire and imitate.

We see in Jesus the Father's Mercy as He forgave sinners, the Father's compassion as He healed the sick, the Father's patience as He explained exalted mysteries in simple parables.

This same reflection must be seen in us. Our desire as Christians should be to act as much like Jesus as the light and grace of the present moment permit. That light and grace will vary from moment to moment and grow from day to day. As we are patient with our neighbor, we must be patient with ourselves because God is patient with us. He knows how difficult it is for us to live in His Will. He accepts our feeble efforts to obey, our grumbling moments of rebellion and our vacillating spirit. He knows that the more we grow in love, the more detached we will be from our own will. The more we love the Father, the more we will accomplish His Will.

There is a bittersweet side of love that we cannot overlook. Love is only proven by a willingness to sacrifice—to give of ourselves. This is true of natural and supernatural love. A mother, who refuses to care for a sick child, loves little. The worry, anxiety and care of a loving mother proves her love for her children. The Father's love for us was manifested when His desire to have us with Him in the kingdom, compelled Him to send His own Son to redeem us. It was an act of love that commanded the Eternal Word to become man. It was another act of love that responded with a never to be forgotten, "I go to do Thy Will."

Life should not be a battle of Wills—His and mine. Life is a never ending call to love and an opportunity to respond with the same love—a call to sacrifice our dearest possession just as the Father sacrificed His dearest possession—an opportunity to say, "I love you, Father, more than myself."

Love then, is the axis on which the Will revolves. If our love is selfish, our Will is geared toward self-gratification. If our love is unselfish, our Will is directed toward the Glory of God and the good of our neighbor.

We cannot separate love from the Will, for love decides what direction the Will takes. Even those who reject God possess a kind of love—a love for evil—evil deeds—evil company. Eventually, an eternal hatred is born from this love for evil. Pride is a misdirected love and if unconquered during life, turns inward with such force, its back is turned away from God forever. This is the great sin which is difficult to repent of not admitting error and not accepting dependence on God.

It is important that we be vigilant as to the direction our love takes, for we will find love and the Will, side by side in everything we do. This is why Jesus constantly urged us to do the Father's Will. It was like saying "Love my Father with all your heart, soul and mind: Be ready to manifest that love by doing everything to please Him—to do His Will—to prefer His Will and love to your own love and to your own Will.

Love is proven, not by how much we know about God or how long we pray. It is proven by the degree of union of our Will with the Will of God. It does not matter if the accomplishing of that Will is difficult. Jesus prayed long in the Garden of Olives, because the Father's Will at that moment was difficult. His love was proven by the calm and ready acceptance of the Father's negative reply to His appeal.

In our daily lives it is not possible to like everything that happens to us. However, it is possible to see the loving hand of God, directing and redirecting every facet of our lives. It soon becomes a joy to see how He manages to bring good out of our mistakes and make right our wrong choices.

Every day of our lives should be lived in an attitude of loving expectation and vigilant anticipation of His inspirations, directions, warnings and lights. We were created to fit perfectly into the image of Jesus imprinted upon our souls. That image was made brighter in Baptism and grows clearer by all the sacraments, prayers and good works we participate in. All these aids are given us for the purpose of developing, guiding and directing our will toward God.

A will that is constantly fed by the Word of God in Scripture, the presence of the Spirit in the Church and the presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, will be attracted to the accomplishment of God's Will like a magnet. It will be drawn to God like an irresistible force. It is in a state of continual growth and preparation for the time when there will no longer be Two Wills—His and Mine, but only One Will—His in Mine.

THE END

 

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