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Supernatural Will Power: A Lenten Reflection | Carl E. Olson | IgnatiusInsight.com
We Americans admire people with strong will power. We talk with respect
about those special people who have "the will to succeed" and we often
hear the optimistic saying: "Where theres a will, theres a
Its not that the will is bad, of course. We all have a will, given
to us by God. It is that faculty by which we choose a course of action
and make decisions. As we all know from experience, the will can choose
good or it can choose evil. And not only can we will to sin, we can completely
forgetor ignore, as is usually the casethat our will is not
the most important one in existence.
Which is one reason the third petition of the Our Father"Thy will
be done on earth as it is in heaven"is so helpful during Lent, a
time that continually challenges us to choose between the perfect will
of the Father and our imperfect will.
Its not by coincidence that Lent begins with a cross on Ash Wednesday
and leads to the Cross of Good Friday. The cross is all about the will.
Not about a will to succeed, or about exerting our own will power, but
of surrendering our will to the Father. After all, no one gets up on a
cross because they feel like it. No, they have to willfully choose to
Jesus is the perfect model of the surrender and
trust required; He epitomizes the humility demanded. Although the Son
"existed in the form of God," Paul explains in his epistle to the Philippians,
"he did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." Instead,
he "humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death
on a cross."
At the beginning of his ministry, during His forty days in the desert,
Jesus rejected the temptations of Satan. Three years later at the end
of His ministry, on the evening He would be betrayed in a garden, He again
rejected the temptation to turn away from the Fathers will: "My
Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Thy will be done."
What was the Fathers will for Jesus and what is it for us today?
When we pray for the Fathers will to "be done on earth as it is
in heaven," what exactly are we asking for? Put simply, the redemption
of creation and the salvation of man. In reciting the Our Father, the
Church is praying that God will bring about the final completion of His
plan of salvation. The Fathers will is that "all men be saved" and
"come to the knowledge of the truth."
God desires that no one should perish, but that all will know Him. This
doesnt mean that man cannot reject God, or that there is no hell.
It does make clear, however, the depths of Gods love for His wayward
children and the lengths He will go to in order to save them.
The immeasurably deep and wide plan of the Father has been initiated through
the Son, who in turn has entrusted its message to His Body, the Church.
"To carry out the will of the Father," stated the Second Vatican Council,
"Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us
the mystery of that kingdom."
Mankind now has access to the Father, through
the crucified and resurrected Son, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We
are now able to enter into Gods will and, Peter states, become "partakers
of the divine nature." Heaven and earth were once separated by sin, they
are now joined by the Redeemer who is both God and man.
This wondrous plan of salvation is not just for us and a select group
of friends, but is meant for the entire world. St. Augustine states that
we must pray that Gods will is accomplished in sinners also, not
just in the saints. One way this happens, he explains, is by our prayers
for our enemies. Thats a truly Lenten task: How many of us naturally
desire to pray for our enemies and hope for their salvation? How many
of us, by our own strength, love those who annoy, irritate, anger, and
Lent is a call to love; love is the heart of God and of His will. The
Catechism remarks that the commandment to love one another as ourselves
summarizes all the other commandments "and expresses [Gods] entire
To the world, the Cross is an embarrassment and a scandal. To Christians,
it is love in action. The world sees a dying, bloody man; we see the Son
of God with open arms, reaching out to embrace the entire world in love"on
earth as it is in heaven."
By gazing on the Cross, our Lenten journey stays on course. By contemplating
the sacrifice of our Savior, we begin to comprehend the will of the Father
and how to choose it. "United with Jesus and with the power of the Holy
Spirit," the Catechism states, "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."
Any reflection on doing the Fathers will would be lacking without
considering Mary, the Mother of God. "Let it be to me according to your
word," she said in complete obedience to the Father. She knows His will;
she happily accepted her vital role in His plan of salvation, a perfect
model for each of us. "By entrusting ourselves to her prayer, we abandon
ourselves to the will of God together with her."
C. S. Lewis once wrote, "There are only two kinds of people in the end:
those who say to God, Thy will be done; and those to whom
God says, in the end, Thy will be done."
Those are the choices. We can either thrive in the Lenten desert by embracing
the Fathers will, or we can destroy ourselves by pursuing mirages
and dust devils. "The world is passing away, and also its lusts," the
Apostle John observes, "but the one who does the will of God abides forever."
Now that is true will power.
(This article was originally published in the March 14, 2004 edition
of Our Sunday Visitor
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Lent and "Our Father": The Path of Prayer | Carl E. Olson
Seeking Deep Conversion | From
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Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M.
"Lord, teach us to pray" | From
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Seeing Jesus in the Gospel of John |
Excerpts from On The Way to Jesus Christ | Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
Encountering Christ in the Gospel |
Excerpt from My Jesus | Christoph Cardinal Schönborn
The Hierarchy of Truths | Douglas Bushman, STL
Carl E. Olson is the editor of IgnatiusInsight.com.
He is the co-author of The
Da Vinci Hoax: Exposing the Errors in The Da Vinci Code and author
Catholics Be "Left Behind"? He has written for numerous
Cathlic periodicals and is a regular contributor to National Catholic
Register and Our Sunday Visitor newspapers.
He resides in a top secret location in the Northwest somewhere between Portland,
Oregon and Sacramento, California with his wife, Heather, and two children.
Visit his personal web site at www.carl-olson.com.
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