It’s a month after Christmas. All the lights and decorations are taken down and put away, or perhaps in the process of being put away. Or, if you come from a family like mine, even if everything isn’t put away yet, the intention is there! It’s back to ordinary time, ordinary life. The outside world has moved on from the celebration of the birth of Christ, yet the readings today all point back to that very special event. God became human and dwelt among us. Why? “Behold I come to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7)
What does that mean? It’s a bit of an existential question: it cuts to the core of the meaning of life. What does it mean to do God’s will? And perhaps the deeper question becomes, “Do I want to do God’s will? Why?”
My Will, or God’s Will?
Let’s consider this: why was this Jesus’s response to the Father? It goes back to original sin, the fall of the human race, and its consequences: namely concupiscence. The first time I heard that word I thought, “what the heck is that?” I had to look it up. It would be much more understandable to say the natural tendency of the human person to pride, vanity and sensuality that opens us to the reality of sin. Jesus’s mission on earth was redemption: redemption from sin! His response to the Father was the complete opposite of the response of the first people of God’s creation. (Gen. 2-3)
This act of intent, which manifested itself at his birth, was carried out through his lifetime on earth as a continued “Behold I come to do your will, O God.” (Heb. 10:7) We can see it when Jesus, as a young boy, stays back at the temple when his parents lose him (Lk. 3:41-52). We see it throughout his public life as he heals and forgives sins and preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven. We see it at the cross, as he dies. We see it in his resurrection and assent into Heaven. Each moment of his life was an act of doing God’s will. However, it wasn’t just an act. His will was the will of His Father. He wanted God’s will. (Jn. 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 14:31; 16:15; 17:10)
To Want What He Wants
There is a beautiful prayer about this that is attributed to Pope Clement XI (Pope from 1700-1721) called the Universal Prayer. One part of it is as follows:
“I want to do what you ask of me,
In the way you ask,
For as long as you ask,
Because you ask it.”
Today’s Gospel passage gives a hint of this when Jesus responds to the gathering of people who tell him his family is looking for him: “Who are my mother and my brothers?…Here are my mother and my brothers, for whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” I don’t imagine that by this statement Jesus was denying that Mary was his mother, or that his family was his family. Rather, he was opening us to the reality that what brings us close to our Lord is this unity of wills.
To unite my will to the will of God, is to unite myself to God. To want what He wants, the way that He wants, for as long as He wants, because He wants it is to place myself not only in His will, but in His heart. It is to believe in His love for me, and that His will is for my good. That His whole purpose in coming “to do God’s will” was to redeem me. To want what God wants is to want me- He wants me. He wants me free from sin, free to love. He wants me to be with Him forever, in time and in eternity. Do I want what God wants?