Friday, March 03, 2006

Eating God's Will

“I have food to eat of which you do not know.” Now this isn’t a Lenten mea culpa of a monk to his Abbot or confessor (though it could be, I suppose), but rather the introduction to an important saying of Jesus.

The Lord was weary from a journey and sat down to rest while his disciples went off to buy food. (Meanwhile He enlightened and converted the Samaritan woman, since He misses no opportunity to save souls!) So when the disciples returned, they urged Him to eat, and his reply was the opening quote of this post. Being the profound mystics they were at that point, the disciples asked among themselves: “Has anyone brought him food?” Jesus always has to take them deeper than surface meanings. He spoke in simple words, but since they were the words of the eternal Word of God, they were always capable of being mined for pure gold.

“My food is to do the will of him who sent me,” He replied, “and to accomplish his work.” That’s why He engaged the Samaritan woman in conversation instead of taking a nap, even though He needed one. Jesus didn’t give that answer as if He never needed to eat, but He wanted to make a point: as food is necessary to sustain the human body, doing the will of God is necessary to sustain the human soul. Jesus had a mission, and He would not rest until it was fulfilled. He lived from his Father’s word and will and love, preferring it even to saving Himself from the torturous agony of the Cross. The will of the Father was food and life to Him.

The prophet Jeremiah experienced something similar: “I found your words and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts” (15:16). Word of God, will of God, these should be our food. We ought to seek them out as a starving man searches for food. It seems that for many, the will of God is not something to be sought and cherished and savored, but something merely to be endured, or even to be postponed or avoided altogether, if possible. That is because it is thought (sometimes correctly) that doing the will of God will cost us something in the way of personal sacrifice, or will even be the harbinger of hardship or suffering.

But we can’t afford to live life on such a superficial level. Life will always bring a certain amount of suffering and setbacks, and any genuine life will require some personal sacrifice. Rather than flee these, we ought to seek the ways in which God wills to make them meaningful and fruitful unto spiritual growth and salvation. We have a mission too, and the very first part of it is to recognize that doing God’s will is the sine qua non of our success in that mission, and of our abundant life, here and hereafter. This life is the time to focus our attention and effort on doing the will of God. In Heaven it’s easy to do his will, and one does it joyfully without a second thought, for it is all life and refreshment and bliss. Here we have to work at it, for there are many distractions, many contrary and seductive voices. Pray for the hunger for his will, so it will not seem like something that is peripheral or inessential, but something that is a matter of life or death, for in fact it is.

So, take your fill of the divine will (you are encouraged to take seconds, too) and sing with the psalmist, from Psalm 18(19): “The Law of the Lord is…sweeter than honey from the comb… more to be desired than much fine gold… in keeping it there is great reward…”