Here I am, Lord,
I come to do your will
Readings: 1 Sam. 3.3-19; Ps. 40; 1 Cor. 6.13-20; Jn. 1.35-42
"Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will." The boy Samuel spoke inspiring words, yes? Have you noticed, however, that it's easier to say those words than to practice those words. The difficulty arises from at least two major obstacles: first, sin hinders our full response; and
second, how do we verify that God's will is His will and not simply our will?
Regarding the first obstacle, sin is a reality in everyone's life. The Church teaches that God creates everyone good, but we all have a proclivity for doing evil. And by the age of reason, generally around the age of seven, every child has disobeyed his/her parents and has
fought with his/her siblings or friends. Temptation makes evil look good. When we sin by giving into temptation, sin blinds us to knowing and doing God's will.
Regarding the second obstacle: how do we verify that a decision is God's will, and not just our own?. A few general principles, please.
- God's will is revealed primarily in and through the person of Jesus Christ, in the Sacred Scriptures, and in the Church's interpretation of the Scriptures; and secondarily in the lives of the Blessed Mother and the saints; and in the teachings of the Church. St. Augustine in
the 5th century prayed, "What would Jesus do?" May I expand that to include, "What also would the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints do, and what does the Church teach?" Don't base your interpretation on your own perception, or on that of some unwise person. Individual interpretation has gotten many
people into trouble throughout church history. So when your parents tell you no, when Church teachings tell you no, and when those priests who are wise tell you no; those are clear signs that God is saying no. Individually you might be thinking yes. Remember the words of the Book of Proverbs :
"Whoever has himself for a guide, is a fool."
- God does not want us to sin. The Ten Commandments, Eight Beatitudes, and Seven Precepts of the Church instruct us in what we should do and should not do. When we act in accordance with these laws and teachings, we are following God's will. Certainly, God does not will that
we act contrary to these laws. Positively what is God's will? St. Mark writes that the greatest commandment is to "love God and love our neighbor as ourselves" (12.30-31), and St. Matthew specifies, "when I was hungry, did you give me to eat; when thirsty, did you give me drink; when sick and in
prison, did you visit me?" (25.31-46) As we apply these general moral principles to increasingly specific situations, we move from being quite sure about God's will to being less sure that a particular action is God's will. For example, we know it is God's general will that we feed the hungry, but
how about our brother-in-law who refuses to work, and has spent his whole life mooching off people, does God want us to feed him too, all the time? No. Also we reach some levels of specificity, where God doesn't care at all. Certain decisions are arbitrary. e.g,. God does not care whether I part my
hair on the left or right side. Another example, I care, but I don't think God cares whether the Eagles and Ravens win their football games this afternoon. God wishes that each player and every person performs according to his/hers abilities, that each person plays fairly, and that people not put
themselves at excessive risk of harm. But who wins, that is arbitrary, and not a matter of divine concern.
- God does not will suffering: suffering is an evil, and God cannot do evil. God may permit evil such as bad weather which may result in suffering, and God permits people to mis-use their free will whereby other people may suffer terribly. When suffering occurs, God wants us
to face these realities, and to try our best to bring good from evil, and in the process to become better not bitter. We need the grace of God to face and to deal with the inevitable sufferings in our lives.
Two practical applications, please. "Come, follow me." In pondering your present or future vocation, do you in prayer listen to and ponder God's words: "Come, follow me." Do you ask, "Lord, what is your will for me?" To start the process of knowing God's will, it is good and
important to begin our prayers with, "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will." And we conclude our petitions with, "Not my will, but God's will be done."
One other practical application: every Catholic Church in the United States this weekend will be speaking about the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) which Congress expects to deal with in a couple of days from now. FOCA would permit abortion at any time by anybody with no
restrictions allowed by parents, and no conscience clause for practitioners who view abortion as murder, and view the child in the womb not as a potential person, but as a person with potential. What is God's will for us in this situation? God is pro-life. God wants us to do what we can to protect
life. It is contrary to God's will to take a human life in the popular manner of abortion.
"Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will." These are inspiring words. Let's try our best, by the grace of God, to believe in these words, and to behave according to these words.
Read other homilies by Father O'Malley