Fourth in a series
IN TRYING TO help people through some difficult times, I have encouraged them to pray that God’s will be done. Of course, many of us have said the words, “Thy will be done,” thousands of times when praying the Our Father. We should never want those words to become routine. They are too important. Those four words touch upon the most basic meaning of reality. They touch upon who God is and who we are. They articulate what our basic relationship with God should be.
Occasionally, when people are praying for a loved one who is suffering, I remind the persons praying that God loves the person for whom they are praying more than they do. I am not trying to dissuade them from prayer, but rather remind them that they do not have to persuade God to care about their loved one. We don’t have to persuade God to help us or our loved ones. God is always helping us. There is not a moment when God’s love is withdrawn from us. Even when we sin seriously, we do not drive God out of our lives or cause God to stop loving us. God wants us to pray for others and so we should, but we cannot love anyone more than God does. Prayer is never an attempt at getting God interested in someone’s life or moving God to love someone.
In encouraging people to pray that God’s will be done, I am in effect encouraging them to want the best to happen. God’s will for us is always better than what we will for ourselves. We should try to rid from our minds any images of a distant, uncaring God. The Incarnation is the magnificent sign of God’s love, that God is always willing the best for us.
In “Our One Great Act of Fidelity: Waiting for Christ in the Eucharist” (New York: Doubleday), Ronald Rolheiser quotes C. H. Dodd, a biblical scholar, on God’s will. I find the quotation both insightful and inspiring. It can give us a sense of God’s power and our power because of Christ’s presence. Dodd wrote the following:
“The creative power of God is everlastingly at work in this world of his. It meets resistance from the recalcitrant wills of men. If at any point human history should become entirely nonresistant to God, perfectly transparent to his design –then from that point the creative purpose would work with unprecedented power. That is just what the perfect obedience of Jesus effected. Within human nature and human history he established a point of complete nonresistance to the will of God, and complete transparency to his design. As we revert to that moment, it becomes contemporary and we are laid open to the creative energy perpetually working to make man after the image of God. The obedience of Christ is the release of creative power for the perfecting of human life.” (p. 54)
What Dodd is stressing is that modeling our lives on Christ is not like modeling our lives on a famous historical person like Abraham Lincoln or even St. Pope John Paul II. Our relation with Christ is not an external modeling or a modeling from some distance in time. The Risen Christ has penetrated our personalities. Jesus’ complete transparency to His Father’s will has liberated us and given us the possibility of surrendering our wills to the Father’s will. This surrender is possible because of what Dodd calls “the creative energy perpetually working to make man after the image of God.”
So it is not as though we are merely looking back at a historical model. Rather, we are animated, energized and transformed by Jesus’ surrender to the Father. This can happen in a special way at a Eucharist because that is primarily Christ’s prayer to the Father and we are united with Him in that offering. At a Eucharist, Christ is the main priest. Every Eucharist is Christ offering Himself to the Father.
Living in a society in which the philosophy of secular humanism is regularly presented to us in theatre, film, literature, magazines, newspapers and television, we may have to work to find aids to our Christian faith. I have a priest friend who, whenever we talk about Catholics who do not attend the Eucharist regularly, says he feels bad because of what they are missing in their lives. Reading Rolheiser’s book and Dodd’s quotation has helped me understand more deeply what my friend means.
Father Lauder is a philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, and author of “Pope Francis’ Spirituality and Our Story” (Resurrection Press).