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

by Susanna Mak
Twenty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wisdom 9:13-18B

Philemon 9-10, 12-17

Luke 14:25-33

“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”!