January 23, 2013

How Can I Do God's Will?

Catechism Paragraphs 2822 – 2865 (end)

These are the final petitions of the Our Father, and the Church’s ascribed meaning.

Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is In Heaven   “Our Father ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.’  His commandment is ‘that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.’ 2822   ‘Although he was a Son, (Jesus) learned obedience through what he suffered.’  How much more reason have we sinful creatures to learn obedience – we who in him have become children of adoption.  We ask our Father to unite our will to his Son’s in order to fulfill his will, his plan of salvation for the life of the world.  We can surrender our will to him and decide to choose what his Son has always chosen: to do what is pleasing to the Father. He commands each of the faithful who prays to do so universally, for the whole world.  For he did not say ‘thy will be done in me or in us.’ But ‘on earth,’ the whole earth, so that error may be banished from it, virtue flourish on it, and earth no longer differ from heaven.” 2825     

Personally, I think that is one of the things which took me longest to internalize into my heart, the notion that a) we are called to grow in holiness our whole life – and the associated notion that we’ll never get there, perfect holiness nor perfect happiness, in this life, and b) that we can get closer to heaven while here on earth, and that it is when we live in Christ – doing as He did, the Father’s will.  When the world lures me, myself and I, all of me, into yearning for things “I” want and making me sad over things “I” don’t have, I’m making no progress toward holiness or heaven or happiness, yet it just initially seems so illogical: When I’m trying to make myself happier, I’m growing farther from happiness??  Yet, when I put myself first, that is what I am doing.  Understanding the truth of that was a great learning:  “Thy” will be done, not mine.

“By prayer we can discern ‘what is the will of God’ and obtain the endurance to do it.  Jesus teaches us that one enters the kingdom of heaven not by speaking words, but by doing ‘the will of my Father in heaven.’” 2826

Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread  “’Give us’: The trust of children who look to their Father for everything beautiful.  Jesus teaches us this petition, because it glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness.  But this ‘us’ also recognizes him as the Father of all men and we pray to him for them all, in solidarity with their needs and sufferings.  2828-9   But the presence of those who hunger because they lack bread opens up another profound meaning of this petition.  The drama of hunger in the world calls Christians who pray sincerely to exercise responsibility toward their brethren.  This petition of the Lord’s Prayer cannot be isolated from the parables of the poor man Lazarus and of the Last Judgment.  2831 

‘Pray and work.’ (from the Rule of St. Benedict)  ‘Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.’  Even when we have done our work, the food we receive is still a gift from our Father; it is good to ask him for it with thanksgiving, as Christian families do when saying grace at meals.  2834   (There also is this) specifically Christian sense of this fourth petition concerning the Bread of Life: The Word of God accepted in faith, the Body of Christ received in the Eucharist.’  2835   The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.’ 1384   Daily: Taken in the qualitative sense, it signifies what is necessary for life, and more broadly every good thing sufficient for subsistence.  Taken literally, it refers directly to the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the ‘medicine of immortality,’ without which we have no life within us.  Finally in this connection, its heavenly meaning is evident: ‘this day’ is the Day of the Lord, the day of the feast of the kingdom, anticipated in the Eucharist that is already the foretaste of the kingdom to come.  For this reason it is fitting for the Eucharistic liturgy to be celebrated each day.”  2836

And Forgive Us Our Trespasses, As We Forgive Those Who Trespass Against Us   This petition is astonishing.  If it consisted only of the first phrase, it might have been included, implicitly, in the first three petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, since Christ’s sacrifice is ‘that sins may be forgiven.’  But, according to the second phrase, our petition will not be heard unless we have first met a strict requirement.  Our petition looks to the future, but our response must come first, for the two parts are joined by the single word ‘as’”.  2838   Now – and this is daunting – this outpouring of mercy cannot penetrate our hearts as long as we have not forgiven those who have trespassed against us.  Love, like the Body of Christ, is indivisible; we cannot love the God we cannot see if we do not love the brother or sister we do see.  In refusing to forgive our brothers and sisters, our hearts are closed and their hardness makes them impervious to the Father’s merciful love; but in confessing our sins, our hearts are opened to his grace.  2840   Christian prayer extends to the forgiveness of enemies, transfiguring the disciple by configuring him to his Master.  Forgiveness is the high-point of Christian prayer; only hearts attuned to God’s compassion can receive the gift of prayer.  Forgiveness also bears witness that, in our world, love is stronger than sin.” 2844

And Lead Us Not Into Temptation   “It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English word: the Greek means both ‘do not allow us to enter into temptation’ and ‘do not let us yield to temptation.’  God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one, on the contrary, he wants to set us free from evil.  2846   The Holy Spirit makes us discern between trials, which are necessary for the growth of the inner man, and temptation, which leads to sin and death.  We must also discern between being tempted and consenting to temptation.  Finally, discernment unmasks the lie of temptation, whose object appears to be good, a ‘delight to the eyes’ and desirable, when in reality its fruit is death.  2847   ‘Lead us not into temptation’ implies a decision of the heart: ‘For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also … No one can serve two masters.’  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, so that you may be able to endure it.  2848  

But Deliver Us From Evil   The last petition to our Father is also included in Jesus’ prayer: ‘I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.’  It touches each of us personally, but it is always ‘we’ who pray, in communion with the whole Church, for the deliverance of the whole human family.  2850   When we ask to be delivered from the Evil One, we pray as well to be freed from all evils, present, past, and future, of which he is the author or instigator.  In this final petition, the Church brings before the Father all the distress of the world.  Along with deliverance from the evils that overwhelm humanity, she implores the precious gift of peace and the grace of perseverance in expectation of Christ’s return.  2854

The Final Doxology:  The final doxology, ‘For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and forever,’ takes up again, by inclusion, the first three petitions to our Father: the glorification of his name, the coming of his reign, and the power of his saving will.  But these prayers are not proclaimed as adoration and thanksgiving, as in the liturgy of heaven.  Then, after the prayer is over you say ‘Amen’, which means ‘So be it,’ thus ratifying with our ‘Amen’ what is contained in the prayer that God has taught us.”  2855-6

This concludes this last section of the Catechism.  Next time I’ll be starting at the beginning section, which was skipped at the start of this study.  I’ll conclude with the doctrine of the Creed, a long study, which should take me near to the end of this Year of Faith in the Church. 

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