The ever ancient ever new call to respond to God’s will is an invitation that keeps on giving. Thus, the Lord continues to direct us and guide us toward a more perfect response. A response that can eventually be made with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. There is a purpose and a role we each play according to our capacity and grace. All God wants to do is reveal it so that it can be freely accepted. Our attentiveness to this ongoing call allows us to respond willingly with authentic joy.
An acronym occurred to me which helped me have a bit of a grasp on remembering my response to God’s will as it is being revealed. R-E-S-P-O-N-D
- Do it!
One of the human luxuries we have been given is human freedom. We can simply choose not to receive gifts, even if we are grateful for them, we can still say no. The freedom to choose is the doorway to genuine love. Without it we are merely slaves putting on a show upon request. We do that which we know we ought to simply because it behooves us. It is a one-sided relationship where God plays the puppeteer while we dance around on strings. This is not why he created us. I mean, he did create us to love but not forcefully. He desires our love freely given and when he presents us with a plan for our lives, he does so knowing that we can turn away from it. The greatest charity we can give ourselves is to simply receive everything the Lord has to give even if we are not initially thrilled to have it. Some of it might challenge us, or scare us, intimidate us, or call us on to change. Regardless of what He is holding out before us, we can have faith that all good things come from a Father who loves us. We can accept it or reject it, but for the sake of our souls salvation the least we can do is initially receive it, no questions asked.
Saint Teresa of Avila talks a lot about her relationship with Jesus Christ as enriching whenever she contemplates his humanity. Dwelling on his wounded sacrifice allowed her to grow in intimacy with him and approach him as she would a friend. But this closeness in consequence left her wounded in love as well. And one of her little-known quotes reads: “If this is the way you treat your friends, no wonder you have so few!” Saint Teresa was not afraid to be real with God. She expressed herself as she truly felt and she presented herself to Him in the Blessed Sacrament, as she was. Whether she came in tears, or anger, joy, or sorrow, she gave him everything and in this way her humanity in all its weakness was left exposed before Him. Our response to Jesus’ call to do the Father’s will does not have to be perfect, it can be what it is, and it can be offered to him as it is in all its brokenness and imperfection. He loves us anyway and forever!
I know that He-brews is in the Old Testament and all, but emotions are not included in the brewing. We cannot get stuck on dwelling in our own tantrum of emotional responses. Yes, it is good to express how we really feel when experiencing the Holy Spirit tugging our heart in a direction we struggle to accept. Be angry, be sorrowful, be afraid but if those emotions do not reach a point of self-surrender how will God ever work wonders in us. How will he work wonders through us? Stretching our comfort zone is what the Spirit does best because in it he is able to reveal to the world the power of transforming grace. And our surrender is a participation in this glory.
It is scary to think of the possibility of actively saying yes to God. Every act of Praise we give comes from God, and every one of these acts are first and foremost an invitation. Every small sacrifice we make comes from God. And giving a neighbor a helping hand, even if it is small and seemingly insignificant, is a grace that first became an invitation and which we learn to recognize in and through the depths of prayer. But when we face a moment that is truly life changing and God is asking us to trust him in it, that is when our knees hit the ground and our hearts are truly bowed low in adoration and petition. It can be as sweet as a vocational call which can definitely be frightening and overwhelming to look at and is why we run to the foot of the cross in search of reassuring peace on the journey. But for those who have experienced a more bitter call, such as a cancer diagnosis or a death of a loved one, they know what it is like to do the will of God with a thorn in their heart. Prayer becomes a lifeline for those moments when human strength does not suffice and the one who calls is the one who in faith will provide the grace for a total surrender. Our relationship with Jesus in the sacred space of our heart becomes a strong hold when responding to His invitation to give our whole selves more perfectly.
The undivided heart never seeks anything other than what the Father desires to give it. There is a holy confidence in the surrender that results from a heart of prayer and sacrifice. The practice of obedience opens up a new realm of possibilities when exposing ourselves to the service of God. And while exterior practice of obedience is good, it does not replace an obedient heart. After all, slaves practice outer obedience too but their enslavement leaves little room for an obedient heart to flourish. Our response has to be free, our Yes has to be free. If it is forced or dragged along it cannot flourish in perfect charity. The heart has to be free of any other enslavements it carries with it. There are a thousand and one things that take us away from union with God, each of them carving out a home in a heart that seeks to grow in undivided love. And the grace of obedience freely given deepens the sweetness of a free surrender.
Recognizing, expressing, surrendering, praying, and obeying, the will of God cannot happen if we never notice God’s presence in our life. How can you admire a rose if you run past it? How can you recognize a lost child if you pass around him? How can you receive a sunset if you look away from it? There are millions of little gifts of grace and beauty that we encounter every day, but the busyness of life does not allow us to see them.
“Be still and know that I am God” -Psalm 46
For those of us who drive routinely and are rarely, if ever, in the passenger’s seat, it is a wonder of an experience when we are suddenly in the passenger’s seat driving down familiar roads. The detail in the scenery come alive and all of the small details that had always been there before are, for the first time, truly appreciated and noticed. God’s will is always present in our life. It is beckoning us on to greater heights of perfection in charity. As long as we continue to take front seat, we will not allow ourselves the delight of recognizing Him on the journey. One of the reasons for our desire to be in the front seat is fear; fear of seeing ourselves as we really are, in our brokenness. Another reason could be control; control over the unfolding of every chapter of our life. Whatever the reason, as long as we lead, we will never be able to truly follow Him with an undivided heart.
Nike said it best- “Just Do It!” in the end when all is said and done our actions become the mirror by which the glory of a holy soul is revealed. Perfect charity consists in acts of love freely given. Holiness cannot be obtained through piety and devotion alone; it requires a response that is complete. And a complete response can never do without a life of action. The “Yes” that Mary gave at the annunciation was perfected in her undivided heart both in word and deed. Not only did she receive the words that the Angel Gabriel spoke to her, and expressed her confusion at the mystery of what was being asked of her, she surrendered to God’s will at that very moment, and humbly prayed in thanksgiving, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord”, recognizing the grace that was given in order for her to remain faithful to the call, with complete faith she obeyed God offering her pure heart, “be it done unto me according to your word”, and not only was she aware of God’s presence in her life but in this holy awareness she was able to notice the gift, recognizing the one who called her, and respond to it in haste as she ran to help Elizabeth. Like Mary, we too can respond with zeal and resignation, in the end we just have to do it!