Where there’s a will there’s a way. So the saying goes about the rewards of persevering determination in everyday life.
Where there’s the will of God, there is …what? Blessing? Burden? Judgment? Difficulty? Peace? Opinions seem to vary about the most appropriate answer!
On the other hand, where isn’t there the will of God? According to our faith’s traditional teaching, God’s will is everywhere being implemented, even when human beings or Principalities and Powers try to oppose it.
Take, for example, the writings of St. Cyprian, bishop and martyr of the 3rd century, when writing about the line “thy will be done” of the Lord’s prayer:
“We pray not that God should do his will, but that we may carry out his will. How could anyone prevent the Lord from doing what he wills? But in our prayer, we ask that God’s will be done in us, because the devil throws up obstacles to prevent our mind and our conduct from obeying God in all things.
“So, if his will is to be done in us, we have need of his will, that is, his help and protection.” (Breviary, 11th week of Ordinary Time, Wednesday Office of Readings)
Of course, we know that through disobedience, we set ourselves against God’s will, with all the terrible consequences that follow in this world, not to mention in the next. But even then, the almighty Father, who has foreseen all things, continues to work out his purpose for his creation, turning all things to good for those who love him (Romans 8:28).
But the will of God is not simply a series of arbitrary commands—do this, don’t do that; wait on this action, but implement this other immediately; think this now but never contemplate that, and so forth.
Rather, there is a substance and shape to it, in the spiritual sense, all centered on the Person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of Mary. Again, St. Cyprian:
“All Christ did, all he taught, was the will of God. Humility in our daily lives, an unwavering faith, a moral sense of modesty in conversation, justice in acts, mercy in deed, discipline, refusal to harm others, a readiness to suffer harm,
“peaceableness with our brothers and sisters, a wholehearted love of the Lord, loving in him what is of the Father, fearing him because he is God, preferring nothing to him who preferred nothing to us, clinging tenaciously to his love, standing by his cross with loyalty and courage whenever there is any conflict involving his honor and his name,
“manifesting in our speech the constancy of our profession and under torture confidence for the fight, and in dying the endurance for which we will be crowned—
“this is what it means to wish to be a coheir with Christ, to keep God’s command; this is what it means to do the will of the Father.”
In other words, moment by moment, living as Jesus Christ would live if he were you or I—this is the will of God. We are speaking here of a deep and abiding communion with Jesus Christ sustained in us by the Holy Spirit and our acquiescence to him, taking into account all the unique circumstances of each of our lives.
Obedience to the Father is so much more than simply myself carrying out commands throughout my life. Rather, the very substance of the Son of God becomes enfleshed in me by my surrender to the grace of God.
How else could one come anywhere near what St. Cyprian writes about in all its scope and beauty and power? Yet what he writes about would likely be a typical list of expectations concerning the will of the Father in the early Church.
But this sacred will of the Father applies not only to situations of extreme stress and ultimate witness to Christ, but also to ordinary circumstances of daily life, those hidden and thankless and necessary tasks that somehow hold the world together, make nations stronger, and fill the Church with the radiance of God.
Especially if they are accomplished in the Spirit of Christ, whose whole being was invested in bringing the saving love and glorifying grace of God to all of humanity once again.
In other words, sweeping a room and drying a dish and checking the air in the tires of a car before going on a trip are all meant to be a prayer for souls to be swept clean of debris, have tears wiped away, and find a pathway from exile back to communion with the Source of all being.
Thus, a little taste of paradise is restored to a broken world lost in so many ways, and become insipid in its taste for the ephemeral.
Catherine Doherty’s phrase for incarnating God’s will was “to be a prayer.” God’s will seeks so much more than compliant behavior. It longs to sing the song of redemption through the obedient gesture of every consenting person. As she said,
“Prayer is suffering. It is com-passion (suffering with). Out of nowhere, the suffering of humanity will fill you and you are like one dead … the pain of the whole world is upon you.
At this moment, you don’t pray. You simply share the suffering. That is what it means to be a prayer. …
“Sometimes you are empty. You look at yourself and say, ‘What am I doing here?’ You feel as if you’re no good. Temptations assail you, and a thousand tongues of doubt lick you like flames. That is when you become a prayer for the doubtful. (Soul of my Soul, MH Publications, 2006, pp. 24-25)
“The ability to understand the ordinariness in these boundless mysteries can be achieved only by faith and our acceptance of Christ’s law of love.
“It is not enough to believe it in our minds and confess it with our tongues. It must be incarnated. We must clothe it with our flesh, preaching the Gospel with our very lives. Only then will we be men [and women] who have a key to our mystery and God’s. …
“This power and glory are given to us that we might realize we are brothers and sisters of Christ and that we, too, have been sent to do the will of the Father and thus, to lead people to him.
The power and the mystery entrusted to us is given that we might say, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20). That is our power. That is our glory. That is our mystery.” (Soul of My Soul, pp. 26-27)
All of that is only a taste, a glimpse of the power and the beauty of God’s will as the Father brings forth his plan for his glory to shine forth in all things.