What is God’s will? Why is it so hard to follow God’s will?

Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 9:13-18B

Who can know God’s counsel, or who can conceive what the LORD intends? For the deliberations of mortals are timid, and unsure are our plans. For the corruptible body burdens the soul and the earthen shelter weighs down the mind that has many concerns. And scarce do we guess the things on earth, and what is within our grasp we find with difficulty; but when things are in heaven, who can search them out? Or who ever knew your counsel, except you had given wisdom and sent your holy spirit from on high? And thus were the paths of those on earth made straight.

Philemon 9-10, 12-17

I, Paul, an old man, and now also a prisoner for Christ Jesus, urge you on behalf of my child Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment; I am sending him, that is, my own heart, back to you. I should have liked to retain him for myself, so that he might serve me on your behalf in my imprisonment for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that the good you do might not be forced but voluntary. Perhaps this is why he was away from you for a while, that you might have him back forever, no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a brother, beloved especially to me, but even more so to you, as a man and in the Lord. So if you regard me as a partner, welcome him as you would me.

Luke 14:25-33

Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Which of you wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? Otherwise, after laying the foundation and finding himself unable to finish the work the onlookers should laugh at him and say, ‘This one began to build but did not have the resources to finish.’ Or what king marching into battle would not first sit down and decide whether with ten thousand troops he can successfully oppose another king advancing upon him with twenty thousand troops? But if not, while he is still far away, he will send a delegation to ask for peace terms. In the same way, anyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.”

“Our Father, who art in heaven … thy will be done …”

How many times have we prayed “The Lord’s Prayer”? Often, we may be so used to it that we hardly slow down and reflect on its significance. We know it’s a prayer given to the disciples, and us, by Jesus and it teaches us how to pray (ref. Mt 6:7-13). Jesus cautions his followers against “empty phrases”; saying things to God or asking for trivial things such that we are only filled with our own desires and become deaf to God’s voice (Mt 6:7). When we pray, we often focus on asking God; presenting God with our wish list, while keeping our fingers crossed behind our back! The truth is, God knows us so deeply that He has already given us the best; if only we can turn down the volume of our own voice to hear God’s.

This week’s readings poignantly examine our struggles to know and follow God’s will. “For who can learn the counsel of God? Or who can discern what the Lord wills” (Wis 9:13)? What is God’s will? Why is it so difficult for us to follow God’s will? It could simply be our ego – our belief that we can control everything in our life. We demand assurance and certainties; meanwhile we know full well that this is impossible. In the first reading, Solomon’s Prayer for Wisdom, “Solomon reflects that no human knows God’s counsel because our understanding is feeble. We are subject to physical weakness. With difficulty we understand what is on earth let alone what is in heaven. Unless God gives Wisdom, we will not know God’s counsel, as history shows” (New Jerome Biblical Commentary 517). Indeed, God will send the “holy spirit from on high” to reveal to us what is God’s will and guide us towards it. It is only with God’s Spirit that we may be able to clear out our inner clutter to make room for God’s will.

What are some of the things that clutter our heart-space? Wealth? Fame? Social media? House? Cars? Family? Jobs? Where is God among all these? How should we prioritize? I don’t think God is telling us to neglect all our earthly obligations; however, this week’s Gospel provides us with a blueprint of discipleship, teaching us how to prioritize. In the Gospel, Luke outlines the conditions of discipleship: “hate their life itself”; “carry their cross”; “give up all their possessions” (Lk 14:26,27,33). Jesus demands a whole-hearted commitment from us. The good news is that we know we can relinquish our whole self into God’s hand with confidence because God has already taken care of everything else: Jesus explains, “and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:32-33).

Let us pray, this time slower and more reflectively, “The Lord’s Prayer” with the conviction that God will provide everything for us and the only thing we need to say to our Heavenly Father is “thy will be done”!

Posted: September 8, 2019

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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