The Will of The One Who Sent Me

Today’s Gospel from John ends with Jesus telling his listeners,“I cannot do anything on my own; I judge as I hear, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.

What a counter-cultural statement in a society that celebrates the rights of individuals to make whatever choices bring them pleasure, that treats all visions of the good as equally valid, that acts as though it is we who assign the purpose of our lives.

Jesus models a different way of being, one that says my life and my purpose come from God.  One that acknowledges that we live in a world that is not ours to do with as we choose…a universe not designed by us for own goals and purposes. Johannes Baptiste Metz says that in poverty of spirit “we learn to accept ourselves as beings who do not belong to ourselves.”

I’ll be speaking more extensively about this statement of Jesus’ at tonight’s Novena of Grace at St. Thomas More in St. Paul.  If you are in the area, join us for the Novena Mass at 7:00p.m.

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2 thoughts on “The Will of The One Who Sent Me

  1. “I do not seek my own will but the will of the one who sent me.”

    “What a counter-cultural statement in a society that celebrates the rights of individuals to make whatever choices bring them pleasure, that treats all visions of the good as equally valid, that acts as though it is we who assign the purpose of our lives.”

    The Image of God is a concept and theological doctrine in Judaism, Christianity, and Sufi Islam, which asserts that human beings are created in God’s image. ‘Each’ a divine creation.

    “God created man in his image; in the divine image he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27, New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition)

    All of humankind has been and are unique creations, endowed with God’s unconditional Love, Gift of the Holy Spirit, and ‘free will’ having, or continuing to, sojourn on earth. When was God’s plan altered restricting His children from making their own individual choices?

    “Jesus then went on to say to those Jews who believed in him: ‘If you live according to my teachings, you are truly my disciples; then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ ” (John 8:31–32, New American Bible)

    From a Christian perspective, did not Jesus come to set us free, enabling each of His Father’s children to attain “rights of individuals;” to live lives filled with love and dignity, no longer oppressed, encouraged to accept their earthly invitation to achieve their full potential, be Christ’s presence in the world, and claim their place in God’s Kingdom on earth; and upon the completion of their earthly journey have their lives evaluated according to the teachings of His Son, and hopefully be united with God the Father in Heaven?

    For whom (how many) and on what ‘day’ were the ‘majority’ of (our) choices made to “bring them (us) pleasure?” From a Christian perspective, were not the teachings of Jesus a Gift offered freely encouraging each of God’s children (each of us) to discern and “assign the purpose of our (their) lives?”

    As the two Great Commandments are all about Love, why, why, why does Holy Mother Church devote so much time to lamenting and professing the world (societies) is a (are) Godless, secular, evil hell bent on rejecting God, poisoning mind and body with sinful pleasures and advocating the abandonment of Church teachings?

    Why would anyone filled with Sacramental Grace ever ‘run’ from temptation and evil? How often when two or more have gathered in Jesus’ name, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, has evil reared its ugly head? On those occasions, evil most often retreats, hearts are opened and Love settles within charitable hearts.

    I may be delusional for believing Perpetua introduced me to Jesus in her home church of Carthage and that she has ‘watched over me’ since childhood. Beliefs and concepts of the presence of spirituality (the Holy Spirit) in our lives have a much larger arc than my experiences shared that are often criticized.

    Throughout life, most of us continually query where should the fulcrum of beliefs between the Holy Spirit’s intercessions and personal decisions (choices and / or accomplishments) be placed.

    This past December, the Wednesday morning before New Year, when responding to Father Antoniy’s concerns that I had embraced encounters and relationships with God’s children while increasingly distancing myself from the Church – my response that I was introduced to ‘The Church’ by Perpetua before Nicaea, before Trent, before. . . was expressed during a simultaneous physical shift of energy I described as if our brethren in Heaven paused, turned and listened. Possible? Something physical was experienced . . . and felt.

    When our hearts are open, is there anything that God cannot graciously place within? Life is continually filled with denials – as ordained. Are faith’s denials not also ordained to be humanized, continual and discerned?

    Perpetua was martyred for proclaiming, “I am a Christian.” Martyred during a persecution in North Africa that allowed her Bishop, her presbyter, and her fellow Christians to regularly visit her while she was imprisoned. Persecution sought not Perpetua. When Perpetua’s home church was assailed, slaves Revocutus and Felicitas were arrested, not Lady Perpetua. Jesus’ message of “Love each other. . .” inspired Perpetua to come forward and profess she was also a Christian. Perpetua chose, and it was she “who assign(ed) the purpose of our (her life) lives.”

    Perpetua was blessed, like many of us, to be raised in a loving home, a loving home of faith – a visible and active Roman (pagan?) faith harmoniously coexisting with the ‘silent’ gentleness of her mother’s Christianity until she was a grown woman, and she was introduced to Jesus. Perpetua was raised in a walled and gated Roman villa that enabled Roman (pagan?) hearts to love unconditionally, to love each other and to love, respect, affirm and embrace as equals both male and female servants and slaves.

    Imagine the struggles of remaining true to her heart, true to The Spirit within, and true to herself – putting on a guarded ‘self-other’ than her natural, loving ‘self-incarnate in Spirit’ self that defined her heart and her being each time she ventured through the gates of her estate and out among the elite of Carthage. The many elite who conformed to many of the expected and accepted unjust biases of Roman / Carthaginian culture – and the many elite who expected others to conform as well. . .

    Jesus’ message of Love that she embraced as a Christian was reason ‘only’ for her imprisonment, her trial, her sentence of death and her martyrdom. She (like many saints and martyrs) died to help set us free, helping further the freedom Christ offered (offers) each of us (choices) to accept, reverence and share Jesus’ Love with all of Our Father’s children. . .

    “My command is this: Love each other as I have Loved you.” (John 15;12)

    Is Jesus’ command to Love each other assailed and are we assured to become sinful directly through lack of obedience to certain Church teachings?

    The use of artificial contraceptives. No.

    Offering compassion and merciful understanding to those who have had an abortion. No.

    Comforting and under limited circumstances advocating for abandoned and abused remarried spouses to receive reconciliation and the Eucharist. No.

    Being respectful of same-sex couples who ‘love’ each other and have found loving and affirming faith communities other than the Catholic faith they were baptized in. No.

    Belief that the Eucharist celebration of Perpetua’s home church of Carthage that (in its day) affirmed those who believed in Jesus’ message of Love and inclusion were worthy and welcomed should not today force devout, loving individuals, families and communities, who though heritage (including the historical injustices and deplorable behavior of many Church Fathers, and no fault of their own) to now be denied the Eucharist during their earthly journey – an earthly journey where all faiths, Christian, non-Christian and many non-believers, profess the importance to shelter, cloth and feed all of God’s children.

    “Feed my Lambs.” (John 21:15) “Tend my sheep.” (John 21:16) “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17) Except when it comes to the most sacred of all meals, the Eucharistic meal – and His shepherds proclaim, “All are not welcomed here.”

    Thank you Perpetua for introducing me to your Christian faith, your Christian faith community of Carthage where all who believed in Jesus message, “My command is this: Love each other as I have Loved you,” were welcomed. . .

    Are all not called to “. . . assign the purpose of our lives” and be held accountable for our choices?

  2. From the Gospel this morning: “Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:1-11)

    Who is to condemn or exclude another in the sight of The Lord?

    Thank you Perpetua for introducing me to your Christian faith, your Christian faith community of Carthage where all who believed in Jesus message, “My command is this: Love each other as I have Loved you,” were welcomed. . .

    Perpetua was martyred for proclaiming, “I am a Christian.” Martyred during a persecution in North Africa that allowed her Bishop, her presbyter, and her fellow Christians to regularly visit her while she was imprisoned. Persecution sought not Perpetua. When Perpetua’s home church was assailed, slaves Revocutus and Felicitas were arrested, not Lady Perpetua. Jesus’ message of “Love each other. . .” inspired Perpetua to come forward and profess she was also a Christian. Perpetua chose (believed) that Revocutus and Felicitas “had value too.”, and it was she “who assign(ed) the purpose of our (her life) lives.”

    “HOWEVER, NOT EVERYONE WAS included during our third grade summer. Two of the most unpopular boys in the neighborhood were brothers and they lived in a garage apartment across the alley from ours. The older of the two was only a month younger than me. He was tall, slight of build and the only one who wore a pair of glasses, glasses with very thick lens. His appearance to some resembled that of Ichabod Crane, from the Disney short movie The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, and when you looked directly at him the lenses distorted his appearance and probably contributed to his difficulty in being accepted. He was quiet, shy and not very athletic. He seemed to lack confidence and was seldom chosen to play baseball or other sports. By association, his younger brother often received the same treatment.

    ‘We don’t want them to play with us,’ the older kids frequently exclaimed. ‘Let’s ask Susan to play,’ they suggested when prepared to make up sides.

    The mortician’s son was also younger, often watched from a distance and was stigmatized by his father’s profession.

    Though I noticed the disappointment in their eyes and frowns on their faces when my friends were excluded, I remained silent and followed the lead of the older children.

    Most of my friends had different personalities, yet at times, similar interests. Certain activities brought many of them together while excluding others. Faces were telling, as there were many smiles and sad expressions displayed when decisions were made on what to play next and whom to include. Being included was everyone’s wish. ‘Why was that not always possible?’ I wondered. ‘It should be’.”

    “PLAYING WITH OLDER CHILDREN brought out my best and by the start of fourth grade I was less intimidated by Susan. As the dynamics of our relationships had evolved, she was no longer as influential and we had become friends. I had begun to subtly influence her and eagerly looked forward to our upcoming school year. She and my close friends were going into fifth grade and in another year they would be the leaders of our school. Their friendships had afforded me the opportunity to become more self-confident.

    During the previous school year, my sister Carolyn and I became friends with our next door neighbor. His father and uncle owned the mortuary and his family lived above the funeral home. He was a month younger than my sister, rather quiet and often kept a comfortable distance from other children. Being a mortician’s son took some getting used to.

    He attended the Catholic school located next door to the church we attended on Sundays. Unexpectedly, I was attending church much more frequently myself, I was soon attending daily mass. One summer morning, my mother informed my sister and me that we would be attending the Assumption Hall during the coming school year. ‘Mom, Catholic school? Do we have to?’ we protested. ‘Why?’ We lamented. She calmly explained always wanting us to attend her childhood school and that our father had recently agreed to her wishes. My mother assured us she enjoyed Catholic school and had loved her years there. ‘Nuns! I muttered under my breath.’

    ‘A new school and new friends?’ I whispered complaint. With each passing year, I had become more confident at the public school. I was not looking forward to being separated from my friends and was convinced I would not love my years in Catholic School. ‘Was this really such a good idea?’ Numerous thoughts and concerns began rising like flood waters inundating my mind and I was quickly awash with doubts.

    Once classes began, my doubts became reality. Everyone knew I was a newbie, someone new to Catholic school and within days, the students in my class had a good laugh at my expense. The subject of what Order presided over the school came up. Quickly, I raised my hand and suggested it was good behavior. I can still hear the reply.

    ‘No silly!’ Most of the class giggled and responded that it was the Benedictine Order.

    ‘What kind of order is that?’ I recalled asking, completely confused.

    Sister Eileen calmly restored order, the kind I had described with my answer and proceeded to explain what a religious Order was. Instantly, I became one of the quietest students in her class.

    I overtly shrugged and explained to my neighborhood friends that my fourth grade teacher was a nun and lamented not being with them that year. I missed my friends and old school more than I let on. At my new school, I felt out of place, everyone seemed to know each other. My mother might have enjoyed her school years there. I sighed and fretted. I was not at all sure what kind of an experience I was going to have. As doubt more frequently percolated in my mind, I was concerned it would not be a pleasant one. It was no wonder I could hardly wait for morning mass and the lunch time that followed, almost an hour and a half of no class, I liked that a lot! I felt comfortable and secure in church. It was my special place.”

    “What do I deserve to experience that we have not experienced together, that we have not experienced together at the invitation of our Lord? Through whose eyes do you now wish to see, mine, your own, no longer our Lords? Your ‘Gift of Life’ I suggested you not claim as a young child, can still be claimed. The Gift of Life comes not with terms, you are able to claim it at a time of your choosing. The free will of our humanity gifted within our ‘Gift’ of earthly life ensures all will one day claim their ‘Gift of Life’ – the pendulum of life continues to swing forth and back each time we claim life and each time we offer it back to our Lord – forth and back it continues to swing. Each of us controls the frequency of our pendulum’s movements, where it rests is ours to know and experience.” –Perpetua

    “MY FOURTH GRADE SUMMER was memorable. Some of my friends continued to be excluded and were often treated like the defective and unwanted toys sent to the ‘Island of Misfit Toys’ in the’ Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas’ television special. Many of them were not deemed good enough to play with the rest of us. Sad expressions and puzzled looks often formed on the faces of those not included.

    ‘We don’t want them to play,’ some of my friends often stated emphatically.
    Things were a little different that summer and the way we played together began to change.

    During sports or athletic games, I offered to take the kids no one else wanted as part of my team. We were assured to loose, most often got trounced and victory celebrations were never experienced by our side, though everyone participated. However, it was not long before we had reason to celebrate. Activities requiring strategy began to produce a different kind of trouncing, with the ‘Misfit Kids’ and me doing our share.

    Though we did not have access to the play sets and toys the other kids had available, we had what nature provided and we made the most of it. Our forts and fortifications were not of the molded plastic variety or limited by the number of pieces their play sets contained. We had endless sources of sticks, stones and sand to create elaborate forts and battlements. While the other group was assembling their plastic toy pieces and searching for a level place to ensure they would not fall over once the pieces were connected together, we were claiming the most strategic locations and building elaborate defenses.

    With the help of my lanky, bespectacled friend from across the alley, I devised our strategy and the other members of our little group were excited to follow our instructions. All those years of planning, drawing and building with my red plastic bricks had paid off. At home, I had spent years building representations of the play sets my friends had and eventually was rewarded. Together we out thought and out maneuvered the other kids. I was also a ruthless, persuasive enforcer of realism, seeing that our make believe battles played out as realistically as the motion pictures that inspired many of our re-enactments. ‘It never happened that way in the movie!’ I often had to remind them as a last resort. Who could argue with the movies? Everything we saw on the screen was real, wasn’t it?

    Soon, the most popular kids wanted to be on our side. To do so, they were required to allow one of the Misfit Kids to take their place in the other group. Before long, the children who did not always feel wanted or accepted found themselves gaining more confidence, they had value too.”

    Perpetua chose (believed) that Revocutus and Felicitas ‘had value too.’ ”

    Thank you Perpetua for introducing me to your Christian faith, your Christian faith community of Carthage where all who believed in Jesus message, “My command is this: Love each other as I have Loved you,” were welcomed. . .

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