“To refuse to freely choose when choice is called for in God’s plan is to fail to fulfill our role in God’s providence.”
Ninth in a series
At this time in my life I think that I understand myself better than I have ever previously understood myself. Of course I could be wrong. Accurate self-knowledge is not easy to attain. Many factors can lead us to accept false self-images and of course pride and vanity can blind us to what is really true about ourselves. Nevertheless I think I have made some progress in self-knowledge. I now seem to have insights that I did not have previously.
How did this progress in self-knowledge happen? I think that teaching philosophy for over fifty years has helped me to probe more deeply into my interior life. Writing a weekly column has probably led me to serious reflection on the mystery of persons, including the mystery of myself. Close friends have helped me to have the courage to recognize my faults. Certainly prayer has helped. However no matter how deeply I explore my identity, I will never understand myself completely.
There is a kind of infinite depth to each of us, a depth that we will never completely plumb. I have a friend who was in therapy for twenty years. I asked him after twenty years what did he talk about in the sessions with his therapist. He responded: “There is always something.”
When we believe that each one of us has a unique gift to give, a special role to play in God’s plan, then the importance of free choice looms large. There is a real sense in which our choices are indispensable in God’s plan. God is calling us to action. In his “Should Anyone Say Forever” (Chicago: Loyola University Press,1975, pp.166) Father John Haughey, S.J., stresses the unique contribution each of us can make when we make a free choice. Father Haughey writes the following:
“When the refusal to choose leaves the work of God’s hands unfinished, then this peculiar kind of inaction takes on a moral dimension. Why? Because the unique way of manifesting some aspect of the fullness of God that every person is born to manifest remains mere potency. Refusal to come to the point of decision, choice, or commitment can leave something of creation itself unfinished and hence God’s glory incomplete. This constitutes evil at the level of being itself. An individual thwarts the purpose of God’s creating him by refusing to exercise the cocreatorship that he could exercise. That which is called forth by God is rendered void by men. Martin Buber has written eloquently about the evil of indecision. Buber would say that reality at any one moment is capable of becoming unreality if the person allows the chaos of ‘possibilities’ to envelop him, imposing its form of indefiniteness upon the definiteness of the moment.’ In his own picturesque way, Buber claims that it is through decision that’ the soul as form’ overcomes the ‘soul as matter.’ Through decision ‘chaos is subdued and shaped into cosmos.’” (pp. 23-24)
All People In Divine Plan
I wonder if I could find a text that would reveal more powerfully the unique importance of every person. Each of us is called by God to cooperate with God’s creative act and providential presence by contributing our own unique free choices. Every single one of us has a place in God’s plan. To refuse to freely choose when choice is called for in God’s plan is to fail to fulfill our role in God’s providence.
Every person, rich or poor, genius or intellectually challenged, old or young, healthy or ill, fetus or senile, has a unique gift to offer and for most of us that gift is offered through free choices. There is no one who is not included in God’s plan.
Free to Frustrate or Foster
God has chosen to involve each of us in God’s plan of salvation. It is not only that all of us receive God’s blessings and graces but that all of us have a unique role to play in God’s plan.
Haughey’s words “leaves the work of God’s hands unfinished” should leave no doubt in our minds about how important each of us is to God. Our free choices can either foster God’s plans or hinder them, at least to some extent. That is amazing.
I love Buber’s insight that through our good decisions “chaos is subdued and shaped into cosmos.” We are called to cooperate with God in building the Kingdom of God. All of us are. That we are called to cooperate in building God’s Kingdom is another way of saying that we are called to be holy. God wants an intimate love relationship with each of us. In trying to cooperate with God’s plan for us it is important to remember that we are not alone. In our journey of love we have the Holy Spirit, Infinite Love, guarding and guiding us.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica. He presents two 15-minute talks from his 24-part lecture series on the Catholic Novel, every Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NET-TV.