How often do we surrender ourselves to God’s will and deny ourselves? Do you make your will more important than God’s? How do you know what God’s will is for you?
Those are the questions I asked myself as I reflected on today’s readings. The following words also came to me because I can often struggle with them: Those words are: Surrender, Humility, Free Will, Patience, Faith and Consequence. Humility was mentioned four times between the psalm and the second reading.
The words in the 1st reading from Ezekiel are clear about what can happen when we go our own way and not that of God’s. God has given us all the grace of free will to love Him or reject Him. To do what we want or what God wants, but there are consequences for our actions and inactions. To live as God intended, we must surrender the world’s way of living and live as God wants us to. At times, that can be hard because the world temps and distracts us in so many ways. We hear voices saying, “it’s okay to do that” or “what’s the big deal?”, or “you can do that later”, or “do what makes you happy”. God’s words are twisted to confuse us and there are so many things that are contrary to the will of God. The “deal” is, when we decide that our way is better than God’s, we jeopardize our eternal life. God knows we will be tempted and sometimes fail. That is why Jesus gave us the great sacrament of reconciliation to ask for His mercy and the strength to turn away from our sins, so we can live with Him forever. Free will is a great gift from God but we must use it wisely, because the result of our decisions can be costly.
The psalm transitions our thoughts from free will and consequence to humility, asking for God’s mercy and guidance.
When I think of humility and surrender, Jesus comes to mind immediately. St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians in the second reading explains it so well. From his humble birth into the world, to his surrender of his Father’s will in the garden and his crucifixion, he shows us how to live a life of faith in the plan God has for each one of us. Jesus knew the plan and how he was to suffer and still surrendered to his Father’s will. Most of us do not know the exact plan the Father has for us, but we need to trust God’s plan is the best for us.
Our blessed Mother and St. Joseph give us great role models also for all these qualities. Do we think Mary would have said Yes if she knew her son would be crucified at a young age? If she knew, do you think she would have put conditions on her “Yes”? Do we put conditions on God’s request so we feel comfortable to say “yes” to protect us from the unknowns? What Mary models for us is to say yes to God in the current moment when he calls and have trust and faith in Him.
St Joseph’s example of following God’s plan is worth exploring as well. Not wanting scandal for Mary after she is found with child, he wants to divorce her quietly. But an angel comes to him and tells him it will be okay, that this is God’s plan, so he takes Mary into his home. He trusts in God. He also listens to God’s plan when told to take Mary and Jesus to safety in Egypt in order to escape Herod’s edict to kill Jesus.
It can be hard to emulate the saints or our Blessed Mother, thinking we are not as strong or trusting as they were. We think they did extraordinary things that we could never do. In that case, look to someone closer to you that can be a role model or see the everyday things in life that God’s calling you to do. He has a unique plan for each of us and only you can complete the work He has for you. If you do not do it, it goes undone.
When we say yes, as St. Paul writes, we should not look for praise or figure out “what is in it for me”. Rather we should do everything for others, wanting more for them than ourselves. When we do this, we follow the example of Jesus.
As we contemplate Matthew’s Gospel, do we relate to one of characters Jesus describes or is talking to? How often are we one of the two sons? What compelled the first son to do what his father asked after first saying no? Was he in a bad mood, when his father asked him to go to work and he just responded out of frustration? Later, with a clearer mind, he decides to honor his father’s command. Does he go to work happily or begrudgingly, complaining the entire day. How about the second son? Was his plan to do what he wanted to all along and then just said yes to make his father happy? Or does he really mean to work and then someone tells him about an activity he would like more. Does he say to himself, let me complete another task first, something more important to me, and then I will do what my father asks.
Hopefully, we do not relate to the chief priests or elders. Their pride and arrogance blind them from the fact that God is in their presence and is speaking to them. They need to get of rid of Jesus because what he preaches challenges them, and they feel they are above reproach. Notice Jesus does not say the chief priests cannot get to heaven. He tells them those who believe, repent of their sins, and turn away from sinful ways are entering heaven and right now it is not looking good for them. He reinforces the message from we heard from Ezekiel.
We need take parts of both sons and put them together by saying yes to God’s call and complete the work He asks of us when He asks us. Not on our schedule, but rather God’s. How do we know God’s will for us? You must ask and then listen. Prayer is so important to discerning God’s will. Do it often and when you can, be in His presence in an adoration chapel. Ask the Lord each day: what is your will for me today?
I found these two quotes I want to share. The first is from St. Catherine of Siena, who said: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” The second is from the diary of St. Faustina: “No matter what we go through in life, when challenges arise, we must speak the words spoken by the great saints, ‘Thy will be done!’. Holiness is all about doing the Will of God despite any confusion or apparent obstacle in our lives”.
When we recite the Lord’s prayer, how often do we think about the words: “Thy will be done”? Are they just words or do we let them into our hearts and really mean them? We need to say these words in the good times and then much more so when struggles are upon us? It is in the times of difficulty when we surrender to the will of God that our faith can grow much stronger.
I pulled the following from a reflection of September 3rd’s gospel of Luke, known as the “The Call of Simon the Fisherman” (LK 5:1-11). Jesus had Peter and the other fisherman put their boats out into deep water for a catch. Peter said to Jesus: ‘Master, we have worked hard all night and have caught nothing, but at your command I will lower the nets.’” They caught so many fish, it almost sank two boats!
The reflection states: “When we listen to God and act on His word, committing ourselves to His will in a radical and deep way, He will produce an abundant catch of souls. This ‘catch’ will come in an unexpected way at an unexpected time and will clearly be the work of God. If we fail to listen to the voice of God in our lives, and fail to heed His radical commands, we will not be used in the way He desires to use us.”
Let’s us commit ourselves to a daily prayer of true surrender, faith and trust with: “Lord your will be done in me and on the earth as it is in heaven”.
Jesus, I trust in you.