Does God Really Want Me to Do This?
Thursday April 29, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week of Easter
Reading (Acts 8:26-40) Gospel (St. John 6:44-51)
Our Lord tells us in the Gospel reading that everyone who listens to His Father and learns from the Father comes to the Lord. This obviously implies, if we are going to be listening to the Father, that there has to be a life of prayer. How is one going to hear the voice of God if one is not seeking the voice of God? Obviously, God can do what He wants, as we see, for instance, in the life of Saint Paul, who was not seeking God (as far as understanding the Lord). Nonetheless, Jesus Himself actually appeared to Saul on the way to Damascus and spoke to him and got his life turned around. So God can certainly work in extraordinary ways, and I am sure that in many of our lives He has. But the extraordinary is just that: it is extraordinary. Under ordinary circumstances, God works in ordinary ways. It may be that He did something extraordinary to get us turned around, but from that point on He is normally going to expect that we are going to operate according to ordinary means, which means a life of daily prayer.
What happens in the lives of all too many people is that they run around trying to do all kinds of things. They are good things, things that nobody would ever complain about somebody doing, that is, they would not say, “That’s a bad thing to do.” But the question really has to do not with whether it is a good thing, but whether it is God’s Will. There are people who get caught up in this problem of thinking they have to do all kinds of work. That is not necessarily the case. The most important work that any of us can be involved in is prayer.
We hear in the first reading about Saint Philip, who goes to the Ethiopian eunuch. But the fact is he would not have known to go to the Ethiopian eunuch unless he was praying and understood from prayer that he was supposed to go along this road. He was allowing the Holy Spirit to direct him, to show him what it was that he was supposed to do. It was not something that he just decided, that this sounded like a good thing to do; but rather he was led by the Lord. He was seeking God’s Will, and then he did God’s Will when he knew that was what it was. That is a model for all of us. Our Lord Himself tells us the same thing. He said, “I do nothing except for what I have heard from My heavenly Father.” And so the Lord Himself shows us that that is the way we are supposed to do things.
If we look back over the course of our own lives, most of us would be rather embarrassed about how much we have spun our wheels and gone nowhere, about how much time and effort we have wasted on things that sure looked good on the surface and wound up being a total waste of time (as well as effort, money, and whatever else there may have been) because it was not God’s Will. We will, of course, be very quick to try to defend ourselves and say, “But it was good!” That was not the question. God does not merely want what is good; God wants what is best.
One of the things that I never tire of pointing out to people is that the devil will provide lots of good things for you to keep you from doing the best thing. So if all we do is look for something good, that is not necessarily of God. The thing itself may be of God, but it may not be God’s Will for you to be doing it. And so the devil actually is the one who will present these good things to you because he knows that God has something better. He does not want you doing the good things, but he knows he is not going to get you to do something bad so he does not even waste his time trying to tempt you to do something that is just out-and-out sinful if he does not think you are going to fall that way. At that point, he cuts his losses and says, “I will keep you from doing the very best thing that you could do by giving you some lesser things to do.” They will all be good, but they are not going to accomplish much of anything because it is not what God wants of you. It is not what is going to give God the greatest glory, and, consequently, it is not what is going to crush the head of Satan in the most clear and perfect way. So the devil is more than happy to provide all kinds of good things to keep you running and running and running. Of course, inevitably what that winds up meaning is that there is no time for prayer – because if you took the time to pray, you might actually ask the question of God: “What is it that You want me to do?” rather than just assuming that because there were some good things you already knew what God wanted you to do.
You see, the Lord makes very clear to us that we have to hear from God. We have to discern in prayer what it is God wants us to do. In a society that is as high-speed as ours, it is very easy to get caught into all kinds of things to fill up our time with things that are not what God wants us to do. Now more than ever – because there is no time for silence, because there is no time to rest in this society – now more than ever before in human history, prayer is of the utmost necessity. It has always been, but now more than ever because people in ancient days at least used to have time alone, time in silence. Even if they were working, at least they were silent and they could carry on with God. In our society, that just does not happen. And so unless we explicitly put time aside every single day to be able to sit down silently and seek the voice of God, we are not going to know what God wants and we are going to wear ourselves out running around like chickens with our heads cut off doing all kinds of good things and accomplishing little because it is not what God wants us to do. We must pray. We must seek the Will of God. We must hear His voice. And then, like Our Lord, do only that which we hear from our heavenly Father.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.