Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Ephesians 1:8-12

In all wisdom and insight, he has made known to us the mystery of his will . . . with the purpose of the one who accomplishes all things according to the intention of his will, so that we might exist for the praise of his glory . . . (1:8-12)

Last time we looked briefly at God's forgiveness. Let's now examine what we know about God's will. The following list is certainly not exhaustive, but it will get us started:

1. Quoting St. Peter, the Church tells us, “Our Father desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." She further states, God "is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish." God’s will – God’s great longing – is for you and me to live with Him forever. But He gives us the choice to meet Him, or ignore Him.

2. God’s will is to give us the inheritance He promised to His sons and daughters. (See the Catechism of the Catholic Church here, and Scripture here, here and here). To me, that means regardless of our station in life, we are not paupers. We are children of the eternal King of Glory if we hold fast the profession of our faith.

3. God’s will is that we become conformed to the image of Christ who -- as our example par excellence, "learned obedience by the things which He suffered."

The Greek word for conformed carries the idea of "having the same form as another, [or] similar to" or "fashioned into." The same word is used by St. Paul in Philippians 3:21 where he writes, the Lord Jesus will "transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself."

What does that concept of conforming to Christ mean to you? Perhaps more important, what might we do to make that conforming process less difficult for us?

4. God’s will for us is our sanctification. The Greek word used here describes a life consecrated – set apart – for God. The word is also translated as holiness in various places in the NT. No wonder St. John wrote: "Everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure."

A fair question might be, "How do we grow in purity and sanctification?" St. Peter tells us studying God’s word is an important practice, and St. Paul urges us to pray. The Church also reminds us of the special value of the sacraments to our sanctification. I like to think of them as the "Three S's" – Supplication (prayer), Scripture and Sacraments.

Does purification and sanctification occur immediately? Typically not. As Solomon wrote, it is a gradual process. However, if we continue walking with Christ, it is a sure process.

5. God’s will is that we thank Him in all situations. But that's hard for me to do, especially when my life takes a detour through disaster.

I've given much thought to that conflict, and I finally concluded my response to trial often depends, at least in part, on my view of God. Is He good all the time and in all situations . . . even when I don’t understand or like those situations? Or is He sometimes good and sometimes not so good?

If the latter is true, then we are of all people, most miserable because we serve a capricious god. However, if the former is true, then the consistent message of the biblical writers -- for example here, here and here -- as well as the words of St. Therese of Lisieux make great sense and serve to guide us through even the most heart-wrenching trials: Everything is a grace, everything is the direct effect of our father's love — difficulties, contradictions, humiliations, all the soul's miseries, her burdens, her needs — everything, because through them, she learns humility, realizes her weakness — Everything is a grace because everything is God's gift. Whatever be the character of life or its unexpected events — to the heart that loves, all is well.

Which view of God would you like to make your own?

(More) Questions for Reflection:

1. St. Theresa of Avila said, Let nothing trouble you, let nothing make you afraid. All things pass away. God never changes. Patience obtains everything. God alone is enough.

What does that mean – God alone is enough? What might it mean to you after a month of practicing the three S’s mentioned above?

2. When God’s will conflicts with yours, how can you learn to submit more fully to His hand?

3. Great question here to ponder through our days.

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