His Will and Our Will, by Rev. Jerome A Magat
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus said to the crowds: "Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him up on the last day."
The Gospel passage for the commemoration of All Soulís Day presents us with important insights regarding the will of God and the role each person has in realizing His will in his life. Jesus reveals the importance of knowing and accomplishing the will of the Father and that the human person must be an essential cooperator in this plan if it is to be efficacious in that personís life.
First, accomplishing the will of the Father was the essence of Jesusí mission here on earth. When we consider the temptations He faced in the desert for 40 days; the strong reaction He had when Peter attempted to dissuade Him from doing the Fatherís will; and Jesusí obedience to the Fatherís will in the garden of Gethsemane, we observe the high premium Jesus places on doing the Fatherís will.
Jesus even says that His food consists of doing the Fatherís will. Food is an essential human need and by equating the Fatherís will to food, Jesus reminds us that accomplishing the will of God is a necessary part of discipleship, not an accessory or extracurricular activity.
Second, Jesus reveals to us that the will of the Father consists in universal salvation. Jesus is charged with preserving all that the Father has given Him and to save every person in the human race. It is helpful to remind ourselves of this simple truth: Jesus came to save the human race.
There are those who insist on reducing Jesus to a sophisticated and compelling preacher of a novel ethical system of conduct. While it is true that Our Lord came to teach us how we ought to live, we should never reduce Jesus to a mere moralist Ė He is far greater than that. He is Our Savior and Lord. Neither Mohammed nor Moses nor Buddha made the claim of being the Messiah. The only person who could make this claim authentically is the one who suffered, died and rose from the dead Ė the only Son of God.
Third, Jesus expands on His revelation of the Fatherís will: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life and be raised on the last day. The operative phrase is, ďeveryone who sees the Son and believes in Him.Ē It is not enough that Jesus died for our sins. In order to be saved, the human person must make an individual assent of faith in Jesus. God will never save us against our will. The saving power of Jesusí passion, death and resurrection demand a response on our part. Moreover, salvation comes on Jesusí terms and not merely our own sense of what is required in order to be saved.
The celebration of All Soulsí Day invites us to pray for the dead Ė those who have died in Christ but have not yet completed their period of purification in purgatory prior to entering the kingdom of heaven in a state of perfection. The existence of purgatory is one of the greatest manifestations of Godís mercy because it reminds us that in a state of strict justice, only those who died in a state of perfection could enter heavenly glory. The rest would be condemned to eternal punishment.
Purgatory gives those who did not die in mortal sin another chance, beyond the grave, to experience heavenly glory after having been purified of any attachments to sin in this life and to make reparation for the sins committed during their earthly sojourn. Purgatory is part of the fulfillment of the Fatherís will that none would be lost.
For the individual person, accomplishing the Fatherís will requires the exercise of human freedom in love. Jesus invites us to allow Him to save us by our full cooperation in obeying the Fatherís will. If we desire salvation on His terms and live according to that conviction, the Fatherís will for us can be accomplished.
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