6 Ordinary A – 16 February 2014 – Thy Will or My Will Be Done?
Several years ago the Sisters of Divine Providence in Allison Park, Pennsylvania renovated their Motherhouse Chapel. There was an inscription in the old chapel “We exalt thy providence O Lord and we submit to all its decrees.” Today the Sisters describe themselves with these words: “Making God’s Providence Visible.” The new statement implies that the Sisters have more to do with revealing God’s providence than just submitting to it.
Today’s first reading attributed to Sirach is the clearest statement in the Old Testament on free will. But the psalm reminds us — blessed are those who follow God’s laws. So which is it? It’s the same question the Sisters of Divine Providence had. If everything happens according to God’s will what about our free will? What can we do?
The passage from Sirach also exonerates God from all that is evil in the world. Don’t blame evil on God. We humans have the free will to do good or evil. The text reads, if we choose evil it shall be given to us. Does God, therefore, allow evil to happen as well as good? What does it mean to say in the Lord’s Prayer “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?
As human beings we have the freedom to make choices, to follow our consciences. A mature conscience helps us make good decisions based on wisdom, experience, the expertise of others, and the guidance of our religions. As social beings our decisions in life cannot be made based on our own agendas, in isolation of others. We discern ahead of time the impact our actions may have on our relationships not only to other humans, the environment and other creatures, but also to the God of all creation.
We choose to be fully human by respecting all people made in the image and likeness of God. We regard and care for our planet because it is part of God’s ongoing creative work. When we disrespect other people and the planet we actually destroy our own humanness, our relationships with others and with God.
This is where the commandments and the teachings of our religions come into focus. Although the gospel was written long after Jesus it tells us that he reinterpreted the old commandments so they make some sense in life. The gospel was probably written to address the issues prevalent in its own time. If any commandment is to continue to serve as a guidepost it will require new interpretations from time to time. That is where we come in.
We profess our trust in an ineffable and mysterious being. No one has ever seen God. We also believe God is the prime mover behind the entire creative process. God communicates God’s love with all of creation. Made in the image and likeness of God we are the manifestations of that love. Jesus of Nazareth reminded us we are called by God to take care of this gift of creation — all of it. We trust in God. God trusts in us.
This means we will work to counter any leadership model, or cultural, political or religious movement — any action that diminishes the presence of God in our lives. The second reading speaks of that challenge. Wars, autocracies, conspicuous consumption of goods, economic inequity, human cruelties, abuse of the planet and animals all can overshadow the work of God. When these influences obscure the God-ness in our midst we act to stop the evil from spreading and diminishing the radiance of God.
God’s will or providence does not mean we are objects subject to God’s whim or master plan for the multiverses. Rather we are subjects who act in an interdependent way with the creative process. Participation in the work of God presents a unique opportunity for us not only to bond with other humans, the environment and other creatures on earth, but also to enter into a rewarding relationship with the God who is the source of all life.
When we say “thy will be done” we are accepting the call to cooperate with God’s creative energy in building up the kin-dom of God on earth. As the Sisters of Divine Providence said, they are making God’s providence visible. By changing the words the Sisters were reinterpreting their age old understanding of God’s will.
As we go forth these days doing random or not so random acts of kindness, wrestling with difficult decisions in our own lives we, too, give new meaning to God’s will.