Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Will

1. The coat of arms of the great city of Chicago bears the motto "I will." With this forceful approach to its programme of expansion, it was not long before it became one of the largest cities in America. It grew to be a wealthy industrial centre, in which skyscrapers, factories and churches sprang up side by side.

When it is said with sincerity and determination, this little phrase, "I will," is capable of producing amazing results both in the physical and spiritual order. St. Thomas Aquinas was once asked by a nun what were the requirements for sanctity. He replied that the chief thing necessary was a strong and decisive act of the will, which would be certain to be reinforced by divine grace. The Saints began every project by making a sincere and definite resolution to succeed. They were weak creatures like the rest of us, but they knew that if they wanted something intensely enough God would grant whatever miracles they needed. The father who asked Jesus to heal his son pleaded: If thou canst do anything, have compassion on us and help us, to which Jesus replied: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes (Mk. 9:16-22). The same answer could be given to any of us who say that we are anxious to beome holy. Anything is possible if we really want it, because God will do the rest.

2. St. Paul seems to contradict this idea when he writes: There is question not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God showing mercy. (Rom. 9:16)

What he says is true. Our will is inadequate to effect anything without the grace of God. But it is equally true that the grace of God is not sufficient without an act of the will on our part. God created us as intelligent beings with the marvellous gift of free will. Because He respects the liberty which He gave us He will not compel us by His grace to become holy. He only assists us. His assistance is absolutely necessary, because of ourselves we are incapable of forming a good intention, let alone performing a good action. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves, St. Paul says elsewhere, to think anything, as for ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God. (2 Cor. 3:5)

It is necessary, therefore, that our resolutions should be accompanied by the grace of God. We should pray fervently and make firm decisions. We must pray for divine grace, but it depends on our own will to ensure that God's grace produces results in us. This is the only way in which we can become perfect.

3. We are assured of this by St. Paul and by all the Saints. I can do all things in him who strengthens me, (Phil. 4:13) wrote the Apostle of the Gentiles. By the grace of God I am what I am, and hsi grace in me has not been fruitless --- in fact, I have laboured more than any of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. (I Cor. 15:10)

So let us go forward. Be determined. Work hard. Above all, pray humbly and fervently for the grace of God, without which we can do nothing that is good.