To be read: January 28, May 28, September 28
We are thus forbidden to do our own will, since the Scripture tells us: “Turn away from your evil will”(Sir 18:30). 20And, too, we ask God in prayer that His will may be done in us (cf Mt 6:10). 21We are rightly taught not to do our own will when we guard against what the Scripture says: “There are ways that seem right to men, that in the end plunge them into the depths of hell”(Prov 16:25). 22And also we are filled with fear at what is said of the negligent: “They are corrupted and become abominable in their desires”(Ps 13:1).
This brief section is summarized in verse 21: “We are rightly taught not to do our own will…” This laying aside of our will in deference to the Father’s will is, paradoxically, not something we can accomplish by means of our own will. To want what God wants requires God’s grace—His gift of desire. Left to our own desires we will rely on our fallible reason, and selfish will, so that, we think and do things that may seem right to our reason, or appropriate according to our selfish thoughts. And when we do those things, as Benedict reminds us, they “in the end plunge [us] into the depths of hell.” No matter how hard we try, we cannot lay our will aside by our own efforts. We are, by our fallen nature, selfish creatures. It is not until we have died to self and been raised in Christ that we can begin to change into His likeness. It is the grace of God that makes it possible.
As Christians living in the secular realm we are constantly bombarded with demands on our time, our attention, and our property. It is a self-protective reflex to elevate our will in response to those attacks. But the Kingdom is not about our desires or our will, it is about seeking the will of God for ourselves, our family, and the world around us. His Kingdom will come when His will is being done by those who are residents of the Kingdom—the subjects of the King. As St. Benedict reminds us, “we ask God in prayer that His will may be done in us.” As Christians living in the world, this petition should be a constant: “thy will be done.” It is one of the many reasons we say the Lord’s prayer at the conclusion of every hour of the Divine Office.
The ultimate goal of this first step is that we may be so yielded to Jesus that we not only desire to do the will of the Father, but like Jesus Himself, delight to do His will. Hebrews 10, quoting Psalm 40, says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world he said…‘Lo, I have come to do your will, O God.’” And the wording of Psalm 40:8 is even more explicit: “I delight to do your will, O my God.” May we always desire and delight in fulfilling the will of our Lord.