FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
Follow God's Will – Stay Close to Heaven's Heart
First Reading (Mi 5: 1-4): A Ruler will be born from the tribe of Judah
Second Reading (Heb 10: 5-10) A new sacrifice: doing God's will
Gospel: (Lk 1: 39-45): Mary visits her cousin Elizabeth
“Good and sincere people can also be thieves of virtue.” (1)
-“Store up sincerity, work to perfection to unite with the heart of Heaven” (2)
-“Disasters often happen amidst oversight, and confusion often arises from unsuspecting incidents.” (3)
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body you have prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, 'See, God, I have come to do your will, O God'” (Heb 10: 5-7)
“I have come to do your will.” Yes, to do God's will was the goal of Christ's entire life of struggle, and it is the way all Christians must follow throughout life.
But that way is not found nor followed easily. When people say we must seek God's will, sometimes 'God's will' becomes a kind of slogan. Some people use it as a protective shield for their prejudices; it is clear that their personal views or biases have become for them 'God's will.'
The temporal and the spiritual, external experience and internal realities, are always at the core of questions posed by religion. How can we find God's will, how can we carry out God's will in our lives, how can we integrate life and faith? All of us are concerned about answers to these questions and pursue them throughout our entire lives.
We feel very sorry about members of the faithful who are fervent in religious matters but not equally enthused about life. At times we even see people who seem externally sincere but internally are very narrow-minded. Likewise we regret that there are some people who lead good lives but put aside anything related to religion, even to seeing no value to a relationship between God and human beings.
Often in Cantonese dramas, there is a typical mother-in-law character, holding her Buddhist rosary and at the same time treating her daughter-in-law with extreme cruelty. There are some people who have a very kind appearance yet treat others heartlessly.
Although they use the same Bible, some Catholics and Protestants have a tendency to bicker constantly. In addition there are some fundamentalist Christians who use the Bible to 'prove' absolutely that Catholicism is an 'evil cult.' This can only increase our sense of helplessness.
Sometimes even kindness and good intentions can be problematic. Confucius once said, “Good and sincere people can also be thieves of virtue. (1) What he said was so true, so worthy of deep reflection that later on Mencius used the quotation often.
These two sages, Confucius and Mencius, felt helpless about those 'good' people, many of whom were perfect gentlemen and good people, or some fervent religious believers. They were pillars of their country, the main force of society, the backbone of religion. But in the eyes of Confucius and Mencius, they unfortunately and unconsciously were 'thieves' who crippled people's moral character. It was because they were too good. If it were left to them to support and protect an out-dated tradition, then anything new would be stillborn. Therefore it was especially difficult for any country, nation or religion to advance towards a new life or even take a step forward.
At Vatican Council II the Roman Catholic Church confirmed that the Church is the 'people of God'. It emphasized that the hierarchy must also be in union with the laity, and that the church has great diversity. In the 'Constitution on the Church' Vatican II declared that within the People of God there is a 'sense of the faith' (sensus fidei) and special gifts, and that “judgment as to their genuineness and proper use belongs to those who preside over the Church, and to whose special competence it belongs, not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things that hold fast to that which is good. (# 12).
We must always keep in mind 'not to extinguish the Spirit,' because there is a tendency, even a risk, for some leaders to look on ideas different from their own as heretical. Does it not sometimes happen that parents and teachers think that the good deeds of their children or students, or their somewhat harmless actions, are improper, just because they are displeasing to themselves?
Fong Xiao Ru in “The Theories of Deep Thinking” pointed out that as human beings we should have deeper wisdom. We should “store up utmost sincerity, work to perfection to unite with the heart of heaven.”(2) He insisted that there was a limit to how clever human beings could be in managing affairs. Therefore, “disasters often happen amidst oversight, and confusion often arises from unsuspecting incidents.”(3) This means that disasters are often caused by our own negligence, and confusion usually originates from things we never suspected would go wrong. Disasters happen when we are too content with our lives. Therefore we can only rely on our own good behavior and match it with a sincere heart. Then by being open we can respond to the heavenly will, and receive God's love and mercy. If we are speaking of a country, it would mean lasting peace; if an individual, it would mean real planning ahead to avoid future worries.
Might this not be the way for Christians to seek and find God's will? Sincerity, decency, good intentions, attentiveness and the like are all essential conditions for finding God's will. There is no quick way to achieve this. Throughout our entire lives we must strive sincerely to practice virtue, perform good deeds, cultivate right intentions and be attentive to the big and little events of life. Only in that way are we truly able to discover God's will.