To Walk Humbly: Seeking the Will of God
by Fr. Bernard Häring, C.SS.R.
As Christians, we are, by grace and faith, God’s offspring, born to a new life in Jesus Christ. The seed of holiness lies within each and every one of us. Therefore, it should be our hope to enrich the life of Christ’s holy Church here and now and to persevere in being faithful to God’s sanctifying action. We all come from different backgrounds, and thus have lived through different experiences that shape our faith. But the common thread that binds us is our ability to be holy. We are called to this holiness by divine grace because God’s love is gracious and appealing.
The wealth of the present moment depends on the treasures of the past, brought to light by a grateful memory, and on the strength of our hope which determines the direction and provides the power for resolute action. But the past cannot be of profit, and hope cannot be attained, unless we remain alert to present opportunities and prepare to make use of them. This is the appeal of the apostle redeemed: “Be careful, then, how you live…making the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:15a,16a). Thos who do not try to “understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17b), miss the mark completely. In our day-to-day living, there is no better way to both manifest our gratitude for all the past events, and our hope for the future, than by a faithful use of the present moment. In order to cherish the present moment, with all its opportunities and even all its hardships, we must learn to seek God’s will under all circumstances.
One of the great enemies of our call to holiness is the escape into wishful thinking. This syndrome wastes as much of our spiritual energies as bitter complaints undermine them. Our vocation is to be holy here and now. Our only response should be: “Lord, here I am, call me; Lord, here I am, send me!”
People gifted and graced by grateful memories and farseeing hope have the best opportunity to discover what each present moment offers. Our expectations of the Lord, both at the end of time and at the end of life, are reasonable only if we listen to God’s call at the present moment and remain alert to God’s coming in the future. The more ready we are for a grateful response, the more mindful we will be of present opportunities.
The most graced and holy among women – Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ – expresses her readiness with the words, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord.” (Luke 1:38b). “Here am I” is a timely theme for all who have made the fundamental option to follow the call to holiness. Each moment confirms it, and deepens its roots in our mort inmost being and in our life’s history.
We do not really live in the presence of the living God, the Lord of history, if we only remember that God is in history. The presence of the living God is dynamic, active, creative. When we live on that level, we will be alert to God’s call, attentive to the Lord’s coming, and prepared to respond to the Spirit of God, faithfully and wisely, in the here and now. When our whole being cries our, “Here am I, call me!” we will be graced to discover what pleases God.
Heedful of Others’ Needs
Being alert and ready for God’s coming, for God’s call to us, also means being ever heedful of our neighbors’ needs and just expectations. We continually see examples of how our neighbors – by their temperaments, needs and deeds – alert us to signs of God’s grace and call.
If those around us are kind, friendly, and helpful, they provide and environment that invites us to render thanks to God, the source of all goodness. They remind us, that through their goodness, that we are called to grow in God’s own image and likeness, according to Jesus’ words: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
If those close to us are unhappy, unfriendly, or even hostile, let us remember Jesus’ words: “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36). Jesus calls us to show mercy now, and to help others to overcome their unhappy moods.
If someone misinterprets our good intentions and blames us unjustly, we need only recall that the Lord has forgiven us a thousand times. Can we truly imitate the One who lets His sun shine on the just and unjust?
If others – in their time of need – disrupt our plans and threaten our comfort, then we pray, “Lord, here am I,” to keep us aware of how far we can – and must – allow others to impose upon us and seek our help.
If some people have the bad habit of revealing the faults of others, our readiness to “be perfect” will help us to discover how to let these persons know that we see the good, both in them and in those whose “faults” they are reporting. Choosing what we consider the “best” tactic, we may remain silent, showing by our expression that we are not interested in their carping; or we may interrupt, and mention something “good” about the maligned ones; or we may smoothly change the subject; or perhaps we have found some others means to successfully quell gossip.
Confronting Our Own Faults
If, through our forgetfulness of others’ needs, we have to “work overtime,” we must learn to be patient with ourselves – to accept the commonness of “the human condition.” We can apologize quietly to those whom our forgetfulness disturbed, and work on training our memories to respond better. What matters is that we do not “waste” the present moment in useless regret, frustration, or impatience.
But when we have personally failed to respond to the present opportunity and God’s grace, then let us trust that God both forgives us and calls us to ask for forgiveness. And while doing so, we should not lose our peace of mind, for we need all our strength and serenity in order to better use the next moment.
Many people forestall their readiness to seek the will of God, and exhaust their strength through useless regrets. These are the “if only” people; those who constantly imagine that their lives could and would be happier and more fruitful “if only” their [circumstances, spouses, children, friends, environment, et cetera] were different. “If only” is only an evasion of the present moment, an evasion of life.
All such faults hold us back in our quest for holiness. When we spend time complaining about the “bad times” we miss many opportunities to work for “better times.” Better times can be ours only when we seek the will of God and welcome it wholeheartedly.
Prayer to Welcome the Will of God
Lord Jesus, You told us that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. And it was, indeed, Your “bread” to do at all times the will of God. At each moment of Your life, You were alert and ready to please God the Father by serving the poor, healing the sick, forgiving offenders, seeking those who had gone astray. Each moment was important to You, for You saw in it the light of the great hour in which You would say Your final, “Yes, Father, here am I.” Help us to learn from You, and from Your beloved mother, a like alertness and readiness. Help us to recognize Your presence even in our darkest nights, and to listen to Your call under all circumstances. Amen.
Fr. Bernard Häring, C.SS.R., is the author of more than 80 books and some 1,000 articles. This chapter – “Seeking the Will of God” – is an excerpt from the book To Walk Humbly: The Way of Holiness, part of the “Liguori Celebration Series” from Liguori Publications, and is available in many Catholic bookstores or through the internet.