Loving God’s Will (instead of fearing it!)

Thursday, 11 September 2014

It seems to be common that there are some people who are afraid of God’s will – particularly if they think He may be calling them to the priesthood or religious life. Why would they fear the will of God?

For some, they had already made plans for their lives and then it has begun to become apparent that God is asking of them something else. And it is a fear of letting go of one’s own will and pre-planned projects.

For others, they are afraid of the expectations of those around them – of friends and family – and how those others might react to news that, instead of marriage and family, their loved one would like to embark on the lesser-chosen path of poverty, chastity and obedience.

For others still, they are afraid because they just don’t know if they’d be up to the task of being a priest or religious. Perhaps they think that they couldn’t possibly look after the spiritual needs of a parish of thousands of parishioners. Mind you, that’s why priests do 7-9 years of formation! And then, they can’t become parish priests for a few more years after that!

Others may fear taking the message of Christ into a public square that is so hostile to it. Perhaps they don’t think they’d be up to some of St Paul’s experiences:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. I have laboured and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? (2 Cor 11:24-29)

But should we really be afraid of God’s will? Fear destroys and paralyses. It causes inertia in one’s discernment and puts a block to cooperating with the Spirit. If it is God who is calling – does not that mean that this is the direction He wants you to go? That this is the direction you were created by Him to go? That this is the purpose for which He put you here? If He gives the call, will He not give the grace for you to fulfil the call? Will He not say to you, as He said to St Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9)? Should we not instead trust?

Rather than fearing the will of God, I suggest that we begin LOVING the will of God. A great help in the discernment process is the attitude of loving the will of God. If we’re afraid of it, then how much are we earnestly seeking it and seeking God who makes it known? No, to actively love the will of God, to desire it, to seek it with all one’s heart – that’s the way to go! And to look forward to discerning it in your prayer, and in the midst of the activities and events in your life, akin to how St Mary of the Cross MacKillop referred to God’s will as “a dear book” that she never was tired of reading. She described the will of God as “beautiful” – and we all know some of the great difficulties she endured in her life – both in health and due to others. I include below for your reflection some of St Mary MacKillop’s own words from a letter Mary wrote to Monsignor Kirby. May we, too, foster this deep love for God’s will in our own hearts so that it is something we seek and long for ...and live out without fearing it.

Oh, Father, I cannot tell you what a beautiful thing the will of God seems to me. For some years past, my Communions, my prayers, my intentions have all been for God’s will to be done. I can never pray for a particular intention, a particular person, or anything particular about our own Institute, but in God’s loved will, that is – whilst I desire with all my heart to pray for these, I cannot help at the same time desiring that He only use my prayers for the intention that His own will most desires at this time. Thus I feel a joy when things go well, for I see His will in this, and an equal joy when they seem to go wrong or against our natural desire, for there again I see His will, and am satisfied that He has accepted my prayers and those of many more for some other object at the time nearer to His adorable will.

To me, the will of God is a dear book which I am never tired of reading, which has always some new charm for me. Nothing is too little to be noticed there, but yet my littleness and nothingness has often dared to oppose it, and I am painfully conscious that in many ways I still in my tepidity offend against it without perceiving what I am doing. But such dear lessons as you gave me the other evening then come to my aid and encourage me, for the love of my sweet Jesus is too strong, too beautiful, and His merits too great, for me not to cling to Him. (From the Office of Readings on her feast day, 8th August)

Fr Thomas