Willing or Willful – our Choice

(Jer 7:23-28; Ps 95; Lk 11:14-23)


The late Gerald May wrote a book entitled Will and Spirit. In it he claims the gift of free will that we have been given by God is one of our most precious attributes as human beings in this world.

He points out that we have a choice: We can be willing and cooperate with God’s grace, leading to peace, joy and justice, or willful, stubbornly resist God’s grace and do our own will in life, always leading us into trouble. 

That describes the situation of the Israelites in the desert after they were given the Law through Moses. In the reading from Jeremiah, we read how they were to listen to the voice of the Lord and obey that voice by doing God’s will. However, despite the pleading of the psalmist to soften their hearts and listen to God’s voice, they consistently chose to be stubborn, willful and disobedient, doing their own will instead. 

That same attitude stayed with them right up to the time of Jesus. In the gospel, we see him butting heads with the religious authorities who resisted even his miracles, lamely accusing him of healing in cahoots with an evil force. Their false pride and stubborn self-will blinded them to who Jesus was and the good he was doing, and mired them in their sin of unbelief and hypocrisy. 

Jesus reminds them, and us, about the importance of this choice in our lives – listening to and obeying the Word of God, or stubbornly ignoring and disobeying that word. This is all about the kingdom of God. To be humble, soften our hearts, listen to God’s Word and obey it by doing God’s will in our lives is to live within the kingdom of God and to experience the peace, joy and justice making up that kingdom. 

Unfortunately, our society is so often just like the stubborn Israelites with whom Moses struggled, and the religious authorities with whom Jesus struggled. Our post-modern sophisticated society so often hardens its heart, ignores and does not obey the Word of God. The result is the sin of Adam and Eve – wanting to decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. 

So we have decided as a nation that abortion, ending the lives of the most innocent and defenceless among us, is legal. We have also decided that ending the lives of the aged through physician-assisted suicide out of fear of any suffering is also legal. And in between, we justify all kinds of shenanigans such as false news and corruption, as long as we can get away with it. On top of that, we medicate our inner pain with drugs, both legal and illegal, often leading to overdoses and death. In so many ways, we are no better than the Israelites of the past. 

What a great need there is for all of us to come back to the Lord, soften our hearts, and take seriously the words of the psalmist to listen to and obey the Word of the Lord. Then the peace, joy and justice of the Holy Spirit will be ours. 

The Eucharist is our food for that journey into greater humility and obedience of God’s Word. 

May our celebration empower us to live the psalm response today – soften our hearts and listen to the voice of the Lord.