Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
Central idea: The attitude of Christ. Doctrine: Thy will be done. Practical application: Loving the will of God.
To view Lectionary 136, click here.
Central idea: The attitude of Christ
Reading 1 Ez 18:25-28
Thus says the LORD:
You say, “The LORD’s way is not fair!”
Hear now, house of Israel:
Is it my way that is unfair, or rather, are not your ways unfair?
When someone virtuous turns away from virtue to commit iniquity, and dies,
it is because of the iniquity he committed that he must die.
But if he turns from the wickedness he has committed,
he does what is right and just,
he shall preserve his life;
since he has turned away from all the sins that he has committed,
he shall surely live, he shall not die.
- Every evil act we perform makes us less human and in a sense more dead. The opposite is true also: good acts make us more human and alive.
- If we turn from our sins and do what is right, God will give us life now and eternal life after this life. In our doing what is right, God assists us by his grace that helps us desire to do what is right and to actually do it.
- But we have an essential part in our doing what is right. Our intellect says yes to God’s law, and our will cooperates with God’s will.
- Repeatedly to act in this way builds virtues, so that rather than dying through sin, our souls are more and more alive. The word “alive” here has the same meaning as in the famous expression of St. Irenaeus: “The glory of God is man fully alive.”
Responsorial Psalm Ps 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
R/ Remember your mercies, O Lord.
Your ways, O LORD, make known to me;
teach me your paths,
guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my savior.
Remember that your compassion, O LORD,
and your love are from of old.
The sins of my youth and my frailties remember not;
in your kindness remember me,
because of your goodness, O LORD.
Good and upright is the LORD;
thus he shows sinners the way.
He guides the humble to justice,
and teaches the humble his way.
- We are in the condition of needing to be taught and guided. We don’t come into the world having the rule of right conduct but must learn it. Thus we commit sins out of ignorance, strong passions, and weakness of will. But God is good and “he shows sinners the way.” On our part, we need humility to say, “I need to be taught; I’m willing to be taught; I want to be taught.”
Reading 2 Phil 2:1-11
Brothers and sisters:
If there is any encouragement in Christ,
any solace in love,
any participation in the Spirit,
any compassion and mercy,
complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love,
united in heart, thinking one thing.
Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory;
rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves,
each looking out not for his own interests,
but also for those of others.
Have in you the same attitude
that is also in Christ Jesus,
Who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
something to be grasped.
Rather, he emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
coming in human likeness;
and found human in appearance,
he humbled himself,
becoming obedient to the point of death,
even death on a cross.
Because of this, God greatly exalted him
and bestowed on him the name
which is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
- Paul recommends that we have the same attitude toward others that Our Lord has.
- It is the opposite of selfishness, vainglory, and everyone only looking out for his own interests.
- It is humbly regarding others as more important than oneself and looking out for the interests of others.
- It is encouraging others, giving loving solace to others, listening to what the Holy Spirit wants you to say and do for the others, showing compassion and mercy toward the others, and everyone being of one mind in love.
- This attitude Christ has can be best and most easily seen his self-emptying, in his taking the form of a slave, humbling himself and “becoming obedient” to his Father’s will “to the point of death, even on a cross.”
- We rightly desire to have everything, to be highly esteemed, and to be important, to be exalted and glorified, yet the way to this is through our own self-emptying out of love.
Gospel Mt 21:28-32
Jesus said to the chief priests and elders of the people:
“What is your opinion?
A man had two sons.
He came to the first and said,
‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’
He said in reply, ‘I will not,’
but afterwards changed his mind and went.
The man came to the other son and gave the same order.
He said in reply, ‘Yes, sir,’ but did not go.
Which of the two did his father’s will?”
They answered, “The first.”
Jesus said to them, “Amen, I say to you,
tax collectors and prostitutes
are entering the kingdom of God before you.
When John came to you in the way of righteousness,
you did not believe him;
but tax collectors and prostitutes did.
Yet even when you saw that,
you did not later change your minds and believe him.”
- John the Baptist proclaimed God’s will “in the way of righteousness.” Tax collectors and prostitutes, who seemed to be saying by their lives, “I will not,” did God’s will. Chief priests and elders of the people, who seemed to be saying by their lives, “I will,” did not do God’s will. Not even seeing the good example of the repentant sinners changed the minds of the seemingly righteous.
- For us, it is better to be a person who resists God’s will but does it than to be a person who says he will do God’s will but does not do it. But the best is to say yes to God’s will and then to do it, like Mary, who heard the word of God and kept it (Lk 11:28).
Doctrine: “Thy will be done”
- In the Catechism, points 2822-2827 explicate the petition in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
- What is God’s will? Jesus’ new command “that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn 13:34) “summarizes all the others and expresses [God’s] entire will” (CCC 2822).
- Part of God’s will is to gather up everything in creation in Christ and to give us as an inheritance (CCC 2823).
- Christ alone has perfectly fulfilled God’s will, which is why he can save and sanctify us (CCC 2824).
- We can do God’s will because of Christ, in Christ, through Christ. “United with Jesus and with the power of the Holy Spirit” we can do what we are otherwise “radically incapable of” doing: surrendering our will and doing “what is pleasing to the Father” (CCC 2825).
- This will to be done that “is pleasing to the Father” is not just our private good but good for the whole world (CCC 2825).
- Prayer teaches us the will of God but “one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing ‘the will of my Father in heaven’” (CCC 2826).
Practical application: Loving the will of God
- Our Faith teaches us that God’s will for us is entirely good, a far greater good than we can even imagine. So, in theory, it is easy to say, “Thy will be done.”
- But it is often not easy to do in practice. One of the most basic aspects of our human condition is that we want pleasure and happiness and hate pain and suffering. This is why we resist and so may reject the will of God. We see that what God wants or what we think he wants will make us suffer or prevent us from being happy. This is why the first brother said he would not go out into the field to work and why the second brother said he would but did not.
- The things that happen to us can be accepted and even embraced as coming to us from God for our good or the good of others. We can do this even when what happens is objectively bad: God is not sending us the evil but permitting it and he will draw a greater good out of it.
- Many things that are the will of God and that we can see are perfectly good are just hard. For example, it is hard to obey one of the commandments when a strong passion is making us want to disobey it. It is hard to act virtuously when we are weak in that virtue.
- Then there are the things we actively set out to do: We might think: “I think it is God’s will that I do this” And then come setbacks, contradictions, obstacles, and opposition from the world, the flesh, and the devil.
- St. Josemaria Escriva had a succinct and very practical formula we can aspire to when it comes to the will of God: “Stages: to be resigned to the will of God; to conform to the will of God, to want the will of God; to love the will of God” (Way 774).