Sunday, 4 March 2007

On Earth as it is in Heaven

Jesus said, "It is not anyone who says to me, "Lord, Lord," who will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but the person who does the will of my Father in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

How can we ensure that God's Will is done on earth as it is in Heaven? What are we even asking for? And how will we recognise God's Will?

The Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start in discerning God's Will. Blessed are the pure in heart; judge not lest you be judged; be reconciled with your brother before presenting your offering to God; love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing; don't store up treasures for yourself on earth; don't worry about tomorrow; treat others as you would like them to treat you; by their fruits will you know them; listen to God's word. It is amongst such statements, according to Matthew, that we were presented with the Lord's prayer.

And so we pray that we will be given the grace and the strength to do God's Will here on earth, surrounded as we are by imperfection. And God's Will involves prayer and love for God, but equally it demands actions and love for our fellow human beings - not just those who happen to think the same way we do, but the misguided, the foolish and the downright wrong.

I have two good friends who are atheists. If I told them they were wrong, misguided, sinful even, they would never listen to what I had to say. As it is, I answer their questions as honestly as I can, I tell them what I believe and why I believe it, I try to explain the Church's teachings to them, and I try to witness to the truth in the way I live my life. It's a long, slow process, but over the years that I've known them, I've seen a softening in their attitudes towards God and the Church and an acceptance that we 'religious nuts' might have something after all.

Condemnation of anyone is not the way to spread God's love, and it worries me when I sometimes see criticisms of individuals and groups expressed in an unloving and un-Christlike way in the writings of Catholics. Isn't part of God's Will that we should hate the sin and love the sinner?

Are we doing God's Will when we attack other people personally in writing? When we talk about how much better or closer to God or more correct in our thinking we are than other people? How are we manifesting God's love in our lives here on this earth? How are we working towards perfection, and towards the fulfilment of God's Will on earth as in Heaven?

I believe that we need to stand up and be counted. I believe that we need to spread God's word and condemn actions and policies which are contrary to His Will.

I also wonder if God's Will can truly be done on earth if we alienate other people and cause them to close their ears, their hearts and their minds to what we have to say.

It's a hard balance to achieve, but maybe it's the balance we're looking for when we pray for God's Will to be done "on earth as it is in Heaven".

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