Saturday, December 9, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent (Gospel: Mark 1:1-8) What is God's will for me?

What is God’s will for me?’ This is a question I get asked all the time.Most people who take their faith even somewhat seriously, want to do God’s will, but how are we to know what that is? God’s will for us is primarily to be ALIVE and to love him above all else! Many of us will never know if we have a particular calling or not. I believe that God called me to be a priest. How do I know that? I’ll never know for sure, but the desire to serve God as a priest, was stronger than any other desire, such as to get married, which is the most normal and wonderful thing in the world. But if I had not followed this call, it doesn’t mean that God wouldn’t have been with me. God has given us free will and God will respect the decisions I make, even if they are not good ones. If I had chosen a different path, I may not have been quite as fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean that God wouldn’t have used me in a different way.

Ask yourself this question: What is the deepest desire of your heart? That is probably where you will find the answer. God has created us to be fully alive and to enjoy the wonderful world that God has given us. We are to use our time well, love God above all and love and serve the people around us, but also enjoy all that is good. There is a wonderful quotation from St. Irenaeus which says, ‘The glory of God is man fully alive.’ We give the greatest glory to God by reaching our full potential as humans. To develop our gifts and talents and to use them for good, gives glory to God. This is what we are called to do above all else.

So, what is God’s will for me? God’s will for us is that we live to the fullest degree, according to his word and that may involve a definite vocation or not. For many people, their vocation may not be that obvious, such as the call to priesthood, or Religious life, but that doesn’t mean that the calling is any less real. If a man or a woman gets married, their calling is to live their marriage to the best of their ability; to sacrifice themselves for each other and their children. If a man or a woman are called to Religious life, then their role is to live that vocation to the best of their ability. There are many people who don’t find a partner, or end up in Religious life. What is their calling? Their calling is to live their lives to the best of their ability wherever they find themselves.
I think that it would be a mistake to start worrying that we may not know what God’s will for us is. God’s will for us is primarily to live fully each moment as we come to it. Our greatest calling is to love; to love God and to love each other.

When Jesus was asked to define the greatest Commandment, He answered by referring to the first and second Commandment, because the two are related:
Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:36-40).

If the thought of being called to the priesthood or Religious life is something that repulses you, then it is very unlikely that you are being called to it. The same applies with any way of life. We will never know for sure, but the most important thing is that we blossom where we are planted. Although we may not think we make much difference in the world unless we are called to something ‘great’, the truth is that all of us make a difference in the world, one way or the other. I may be the only person in my neighborhood, or workplace, who prays for the other people there. I may be the only one who shows encouragement to someone who crosses my path. All of us have been given the potential to do great good, but it may be very hidden and more down-to-earth than we would imagine. We will only know for sure when we get to heaven. The truth is that it doesn’t really matter whether we know what our vocation is or not. What matters is that we live and love to the best of our ability.

I have a close friend who was married, had children, got divorced and annulled and later went into a monastery. What was his vocation? While he was married, it was to live his marriage to the best of his ability. When he became a monk, it was to live his life as a monk as well as he could. Do we really know? Does it really matter? There are many things we will not figure out in this world, but I think we shouldn’t get too preoccupied with trying to figure them out either.

What if I end up being single but I really wanted to get married? There is no answer to this except that that is what happened. Either way, God can do wonderful things through us if we remain open to him. Some people will say that they feel called to the single life and see that as their vocation. Others end up single without intending to be.

If you look at the great characters in the Bible, most of them were very ordinary people and indeed the kind of people that most of us would over-look. The great king David was a shepherd. Moses murdered a man in his youth and then God called him when he was about eighty years old. Mary was about fourteen when she was asked to become the mother of Jesus and play one of the most extraordinary roles in history. Many of the canonized saints of the Church were very ordinary people in their time, but God did extraordinary things through them. One saint in particular that I often think of is St. Thérèse of Lisieux. St. Thérèse was just fifteen when she got special permission to enter the Carmelite convent in Lisieux, northern France. In her own writings she says that she longed to be a great saint, but realized that she wasn’t able to do many of the extraordinary things that many others were able to do. She asked God to show her what her particular role was. As she searched through the Scriptures, she read about all the different callings that people have within the Church; Apostles, preachers, teachers, miracle workers, etc. She realized that she could not do any of these things since she was now living as an enclosed Carmelite nun and she was also quite limited because of poor health. Then she went on to read St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians where he describes the greatest calling of all, which is to love.

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love (1 Cor 13:1-3,13).

Reading this was a turning point for Thérèse, as she recognized that the most important thing in the whole Church is to love and this is something that everyone can do. She understood that her calling was to be love in the heart of the Church. She was a young sister, hidden away in a Carmelite convent, but she could still do great things if she did the most ordinary things with love. Even if we are only able to do very small tasks, so long as we do them with love, then we are fulfilling the greatest calling of all. Thérèse recognized that all of us are given an equal chance, because everyone is capable of doing even the smallest tasks with love. Doing things with love is more important than any earthly achievements, because when we love, we imitate God more than anything else. Love is our greatest calling.

So, what is God’s will for me? To live life to the full and to love and serve the people around me.

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