Central Idea: God wills only good for us, not a burden. Doctrine: The will of God. Practical Application: Doing the will of God daily.
The readings for Lectionary 57 are here.
Central Idea: God wills only good for us, not a burden
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
- The first reading recounts what led up to and followed the Council of Jerusalem, in which the Apostles and elders took up the controversial question of whether Gentile converts in the newly established churches had to follow the Law of Moses.
- They made a momentous decision in interpreting the Deposit of Faith that it was not necessary to burden converts with the 613 precepts of daily Jewish living.
- They were confident that it was not just their own decision but that of the Holy Spirit. They gave their emissaries Judas Barsabbas and Silas the mandate to instruct those missionary churches orally and in writing.
- The Apostles and their successors—the Pope and the bishops in communion with him—have the power to know the decision of the Holy Spirit. As Christ had instructed his Apostles, “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you” (Jn 14:26).
- As the Catechism points out, the Church is a visible society with a visible hierarchy (CCC 837). Peter and the Apostles and the elders they appointed can teach with authority because of the Holy Spirit.
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity.
- It was the mission of Israel, and is now the mission of the Church built on the Apostles, to make “known upon earth . . . among all nations” God’s salvation.
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age. (Mt 28:18-20)
- God expects a lot from his people, but his expectations are not burdensome. He rules the people in equity, that is, fairly and mercifully. We just saw this in the Apostles’ and the Holy Spirit’s decision not to impose the observance of the Mosaic Law on Gentile converts.
- Whenever you feel that what God or his Church is asking of you is too much, you should ask yourself, is it God and his Church or is it me?
- Jesus Christ does put a yoke on us, that is, he does demand we live a certain way, but he quickly adds, “My yoke is easy and my burden light.” We see this in the decision given to the Gentile converts.
- Sometimes we desperately want something. It could be something contrary to the Gospel, including something contrary to the moral law. It could also be something good but impossible for us, beyond our capacity or talents. When we push against God or against reality, something easy becomes very hard.
- God in his patient wisdom sometimes lets us remain in this condition until we come to our senses. God knows that sometimes the solution to a problem is the passing of time.
Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
- St. John presents to us the vision God gave him of heaven or the New Jerusalem. It is filled with light, rich, beautiful, strong, and secure. It welcomes all of humanity by way of Israel and the Apostles. It is God dwelling with mankind.
- This Gospel reading records some of Jesus’ most intimate and heartfelt instruction to his Apostles at the Last Supper.
- Loving Christ requires obeying his word and results in the indwelling of the Blessed Trinity: The Father and the Son and Holy Spirit “will make [their] dwelling” with the one who does this. So this reading is about the life of grace in one’s soul. If you are baptized and are in a state of grace, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwell in you as in a temple.
- The Blessed Trinity in a sense “possesses” us. Not in the way demons do, dominating a person’s mind and will, making him miserable. The Blessed Trinity possesses us a way that totally respects human freedom and that leads the person to overcome his futile thoughts and attachment to sin, shouldering his own cross everyday. God’s indwelling is gentle, hidden, but real now, but one day it will be all “communion and feast” (CCC 1136).
- Christ promises to confirm the Apostles in all truth through the sending of the Holy Spirit, which would occur on Pentecost.
- We desire to love Christ. Who is more loveable? Yet love is not a feeling. Love of Christ means obedience to him, which is the same as obedience to the Father.
- To some extent, obedience to God by keeping the word of Christ is in our power, because of the grace he gives us. So is the power not to be troubled or afraid, because of the gift of peace that Christ leaves behind.
Doctrine: The will of God
Thy will be done, not my will be done.
- What is God’s will? It is to save us by our loving one another (CCC 2822).
- Jesus Christ, the Son of God, perfectly fulfilled the will of his Father (CCC 2824). That is what God has done to save us.
- Through God’s gift of grace we can unite our wills to Christ’s perfect will and do what he did: love one another as he has loved us (CCC 2825).
- Prayer is an indispensible requirement for doing God’s will, for “By prayer we can discern ‘what is the will of God’ and obtain the endurance to do it. Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing ‘the will of my Father in heaven.’” (CCC 2826)
- Christ is the way to the will of God. The saints and especially the all-holy Mother of God can intercede for us, those “who have been pleasing to the Lord because they willed his will alone” (CCC 2827).
Practical Application: Doing the will of God daily
- How can we know God better and love one another so as to obtain salvation?
- Prayer. To do God’s will we must become men and women of prayer. If you know God through prayer you will love him and want to do his will. Here are some common forms of prayer (there are many more):
- A morning offering of your day to God.
- An examination of conscience at the end of the day.
- Night prayer before going to sleep.
- Vocal prayers like the Our Father and the Rosary.
- Mental prayer when we talk to God directly.
- Spiritual reading. Read the Gospel and some sound spiritual book for a few minutes every day to get to know God.
- The Mass. (Even daily Mass!) The Mass is the perfect prayer and act of thanksgiving, reparation, adoration, and petition. It is a way of hearing the Word of God. We receive the Body and Blood of Christ and so the grace to obey the Father by loving one another.
- Aspirations. Perhaps the best aspiration we can repeat throughout the day whenever we face contradictions to our own will is “Thy will be done.” All day long we face the urge to do what presents itself to us as pleasing. We also face the urge to avoid what appears displeasing. And quite often we are “stuck” in a situation in which we are being compelled to do what we don’t want to do. This is where the prayer, “Thy will be done,” bears fruit.
- Thanksgiving. Quite often, God’s will and our will coincide, even if only after the fact. “Father, I am happy that I experienced and endured that difficulty and want to offer that to you.”
- Service. The essence of God’s will for us is to serve others.
- Every activity above can be turned from self-focused to other-focused by offering it for the sake of another.
- Every other activity of the day can be offered for others.
- Most of them can be done in direct service to others, just as at this moment I am typing these words for the benefit of anyone who reads them or will hear them who can be benefited by them.
- Acceptance and Cooperation. It is easy to say yes to God’s will in good times. What about in bad times? Do we still say, “Thy will be done?”
- Nothing can happen that God does not permit. He does not positively will everything to happen that does happen–for example, he does not will people to do evil but he does permit it because he positively wills our freedom. Therefore, everything that happens to us falls under God’s permissive will.
- Yet God loves us and only permits evil because he will bring a greater good out of it. As St. Paul said, “We know that in everything God works for good for those who love him” (Rom 8:28, see CCC 313). To explain, “Faith gives us the certainty that God would not permit an evil if he did not cause a good to come from that very evil, by ways that we shall fully know only in eternal life” (CCC 324).
- We do have the freedom and often the duty to right every wrong, yet we must endure evils. This is an everyday occurrance, sometimes an every moment experience.
- Thus, as children of God, we can see everything that happens to us at every moment as coming directly or indirectly from the hand of God and all of it being used by God for our ultimate good and the ultimate good of many others.
- The Catechism quotes three Catholic saints on the will of God in the face of difficulties (CCC 313). We can apply these to our lives, moment to moment.
St. Catherine of Siena said to “those who are scandalized and rebel against what happens to them”: “Everything comes from love, all is ordained for the salvation of man, God does nothing without this goal in mind.”
St. Thomas More, shortly before his martyrdom, consoled his daughter: “Nothing can come but that that God wills. And I make me very sure that whatsoever that be, seem it never so bad in sight, it shall indeed be the best.”
Dame Julian of Norwich: “Here I was taught by the grace of God that I should steadfastly keep me in the faith. . . and that at the same time I should take my stand on and earnestly believe in what our Lord shewed in this time – that ‘all manner [of] thing shall be well.’”
- Thus, we can say yes to the will of God in difficult situations all day every day by playing a little game with God called, “I guess God wants”:
- I guess God wants me to get up now.
- I guess God wants me to have this headache.
- I guess God wants me to do this work.
- I guess God wants me to wait here now.
- I guess God wants me to listen to this boring person.
The Homiletic Directory offers the following Catechism points and themes for the Sixth Sunday of Easter:
- CCC 2746-2751: Christ’s prayer at the Last Supper
- CCC 243, 388, 692, 729, 1433, 1848: the Holy Spirit as Advocate/Consoler
- CCC 1965-1974: the New Law fulfills the Old
- CCC 865, 869, 1045, 1090, 1198, 2016: the heavenly Jerusalem