Following Our Own Will
Reaction to His Will
Desiring His Will
Knowing God's will
Living in His Will
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The most awesome gift God has given each human being is freedom of Willthe
ability to accomplishto
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 Willone
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 WillsGod'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 lifehis
moment to moment existenceis
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 overeatingour
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
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
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
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.
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
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
What do we call an attitude where man is right and God is wrongwhere
man knows what is best for him and God does notwhere
man is the ruler of his own destiny and God merely an onlooker? We call
that attitude Pride and when man's Will is proudit
will not followit
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 careto
believe that what is happening to us at this moment is in our best
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.
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
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 secondarya
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
He began to experience a strange sense of freedoman
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 needhe
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
then did he see the folly of his waysonly
then did his soul long for the warmth of his father's lovethe
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 livingenslaved
"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 iswho
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.
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.
"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."
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 goodit
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 mindan
offense against one's neighbor at its worstbut
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 organismsensitive
to the least painrejoicing
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 ponderthe
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.
"It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer." (Jn.
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 positivewe
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
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
falling and rising againmeeting
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 rebelliona
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 foeourselvesand
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 reasona
reason above our intelligenceGod
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 courageall
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.
"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 livesthe
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 otherwisehe
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
attitudes designed by the Enemy to destroy usinspired
by the Enemy to mold our souls into his imagean
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
a part of being humanand
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
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
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
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
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 rebelto
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 dialogueno
yes or nono
silence. But that silence spoke volumes to Jesus. It meant, "Go onit
must be this way. Redemption can be accomplished no better way." Jesus did
not rebel against the silencehe
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 usonly
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 hungera
longing for nourishmenta
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 heavenwith
obedience, promptness and love. We are speaking hereof love of preferencemeaning
we prefer God's Will over our own, whether or not it is difficult or to
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."
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
God has given us the gift of free will for the purpose of freely
choosing Him above ourselves. It is a matter of preferencea
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 Commandmentsthe
Ten as given to Moses, the Precepts of the Church, the duties of our state
of life, obedience to lawful authoritycivil,
family and church, and the New Commandment as given by Jesus, to love one
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."
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
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
Failure is also used by God to bring us closer to Him. He never
commanded us to always make the right decisionsonly
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
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 clearwhen
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 confidencethat
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
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" decisionsoccasions
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
There is no blueprintno
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
do we fulfill ithow
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 Willnot
just accomplishing itbut,
like Jesus living in it. It should be the food and nourishment of our
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
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 perfectionsperfections
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
There is a bittersweet side of love that we cannot overlook. Love is
only proven by a willingness to sacrificeto
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
Life should not be a battle of WillsHis
and mine. Life is a never ending call to love and an opportunity to
respond with the same lovea
call to sacrifice our dearest possession just as the Father sacrificed His
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
We cannot separate love from the Will, for love decides what direction
the Will takes. Even those who reject God possess a kind of lovea
love for evilevil
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 Himto
do His Willto
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
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 WillsHis
and Mine, but only One WillHis