Sunday, September 21, 2008

God’s Will — My Will

One way God expresses His will through the Scriptures is His purpose for the humanity He created to be like Him. When that likeness was thwarted in the Fall, God’s will did not change. God sent His Son, both in the likeness of human flesh and as the exact imprint of God’s very being (Heb 1:3, NRSV). As the Church Fathers said, “He became like us so we could become like Him.” God’s will is that we be like Jesus — conformed to the image of his Son (Rom 8:29)..

Several of my readings over the weekend have prompted me to reflect on this. What is my will? I know that God, through His grace, has implanted in me a desire to know Him, to obey Him and to be more and more like Him. I also know that I get distracted from this, what should be a priority, focus. My will gets expressed in other ways. I desire a normally long and pleasant life shared with my wife, children and grandchildren. I desire success and recognition in my vocation. I desire personal security and a bit of leisure time and discretionary income to do “fun” things (which gives some definition to my former word, “pleasant.”).

How do these things interface? A life marked with some pleasure is not necessarily totally out of bounds for a person whose ultimate desire is to know and be like Jesus — but it cannot have priority, and I often fear that pampered American Christians (of whom I am one) have little idea of what is truly at stake.

One of the readings for today is from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He says, For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me... (1:21,22a). For Paul, “fruitful labor” meant every moment of every day given in service to Jesus. Nothing in his letters suggests that he embraced his own will for personal pleasure, but rather the opposite: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.... (as he introduces that great hymn of the self-emptying of Jesus (Phlp 2:5ff).

I was struck with this as I read the story of Saint Catherine Chong Ch’or-yom, a Korean martyr who suffered years of persecution before giving her life in 1846 at thirty years of age. One of my readings was also from Ezekiel, and I sat dumbfounded as I reflected on the implications of the following event in his life:

The word of the Lord came to me: Son of man, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded (24:15–18).

This was all in the context of a further excerpt in the Office of Readings (Saturday, 24th Week of Ordinary Time) from Saint Augustine’s sermon “On Pastors.” It takes us to my opening point of God’s will and His desire for us to be like Jesus:

Scripture says: God chastises every son whom he acknowledges. But the bad shepherd says: “Perhaps I will be exempt.” If he is exempt from the suffering of his chastisements, then he is not numbered among God’s sons. You will say, “Does God indeed punish every son?” Yes, every one, just as he chastised his only Son. His only Son, born of the substance of the Father, equal to the Father in the form of God, the Word through whom all things were made, he could not be chastised. For this reason he was clothed with flesh so that he might know chastisement. God punished his only Son who is without sin; does he then leave unpunished an adopted son who is with sin? The Apostle says that we have been called to adoption with the only Son, and also that we might be his inheritance...

It has been observed that God’s first desire for us — at least from our perspective, although from His perspective the two must be the same — is not so much our happiness as our holiness. God’s will is that we be like Jesus, and he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness (Heb 12:10).

God’s will — my will.... Father, make me holy. Jesus, make me like you.

No comments:

Site Meter