We don’t often picture God has having a longing for our sake; the image is too startling and goes against the idea of God’s omnipotence. Most people would reject an image of God, like a parent watching from a distance, hoping we’ll make the right decisions, the best decisions — grounded in his realities — so he can be more fully involved with our lives. We think, “God can do anything; if he wants something for me, he’ll make it happen.”
But as we see throughout scripture, and particularly in Advent, we have to do our part; it’s a co-operative! We have to say “yes” to what he wants for us. And before we say “yes” we have to have a discerning heart, so we can have a sense of what it is we’re saying “yes” to. And sometimes it takes us a while to understand that; the prodigal son wasted his fortune before he learned it. While we are longing to know God, he is longing for us to understand: we find him through the gifts he gives us!
The first part of fulfilling God’s plan for us, which will result in our inevitable happiness, is discernment, which is as fundamental to the life of faith as prayer. Before we can perceive our calling — that path toward which God is drawing us for the fulfillment of his plans and, yes, our happiness — we must openly and gratefully discern those gifts he has truly bestowed upon us, as distinguished from those we might desire. If we do not know our gifts, we cannot possibly understand our calling. We have all seen reality programs where hopeful contestants announce that they are “the next big recording star” and then proceed to torture our ears and frighten our pets with dreadful caterwauling. When rejected they often seem dazed, arguing that they must be great singers, because “everyone” tells them they are.
All of our hearts want to believe that we are singularly, spectacularly gifted. In fact, we are singularly gifted as the psalmist expresses in Psalm 139: “Truly you have formed my inmost being,” and “I am fearfully, wonderfully made” (see vv. 13-14). The whispers of the serpent, who constantly assaults us through our brokenness, can partly be blamed for our delusions; the evil one wants to draw us apart from God, and one effective tactic is to keep us clinging to unrealistic dreams, and ignorant of our truest selves. If our gifts are meant to lead us to our calling (and eventually to our vocation) in service to God’s will, then keeping us confused on this very fundamental level is a sure way to keep us from God, and the happiness God wants for us.
Also, don’t miss Matthew Bunson’s Interview with Archbishop Timothy Dolan on Building a Culture of Vocations:
TCA: Why is it so critical for us to discover God’s will and to learn how to live according to that will?
Archbishop Dolan: Well, because, I think, as St. Thomas Aquinas would remind us, the most basic drive, the most raw drive that all of us have in our lives, is to be happy. We are born wanting to be happy. And we know through God’s revelation that the only way to be truly happy in this life and the next is to do God’s will. God longs for our happiness and has told us the way to be happy. So, in following His plan, in discerning His will, in obeying His law, we will arrive at happiness in this life and in the next.
The Church is always looked upon as saying no to everything, and we aren’t saying no, the Church is one big “yes.” Yes to anything that will make us happy in this life and the next. And we just know from a long experience — and the Lord knows that Holy Mother Church is wise and has learned along the way — that if you go against God’s will, ultimately you’re not going to be happy. The older you get you see that, don’t you? It’s like the Psalms, like the Wisdom literature from the Old Testament. You shake your head and say this is a train wreck waiting to happen. Everybody learns the hard way.
Read it all. The Catholic Answer is a great magazine, particularly if you are trying to raise up a Catholic family!
In the Register: Surprising revival for men in religious life