One of the most common questions I face on a university campus is, ‘How do I know God’s will for my life?’ The short answer I generally give is: ‘If you want to do God’s will tomorrow, do God’s will today!’ That obviously needs some unpacking. It hits on a central nerve of the Christian life: our everyday relationship with Jesus Christ.
In order to do God’s will, we need to learn to recognise his voice, his invitations and his interventions in our everyday lives. That takes knowledge of God, of ourselves and of our relationship. Do we know him enough to know what he loves and desires? Are we interiorly free enough to love what he loves? How does he most often let me know what that is?
Our souls conform to what we love. This is a shocking reality. On a physical level, we are what we eat, but on the level of freedom, we are what we think, love and choose. Drinking petrol is a fast way to destroy our body. What we have more difficulty realising is the power of ideas, images and manipulated affections to reshape our interior landscape.
‘Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.’ (Romans 12:2)
A diet of sound-byte news, fads, opinions, advertisements and gossip cripples our ability to think, manipulates our emotions and slowly reorients our desires. This is the slavery from which Christ has come to set us free; the slavery of attachment to things that steal our joy and darken our intellect, rendering it helpless to guide us along paths that lead to that fullness of life that Christ came to bring.
‘Veritas!’ The clarion call of the man whom the Church calls ‘Lumen Ecclesiae’ (‘Light of the Church’) resounds even more forcefully today after 800 years. St Dominic called his followers to study. We need to have studied the Truth to recognise it when we see it. Study in an atmosphere of prayer and humility re-educates our will and emotions to love Truth as something good for us, so that we can embrace it fully. The reality is that God is speaking to each of us on a personal level all of the time. When at times we do not hear him, it just might indicate the need for some interior renovation.
Transformation is possible. Actually, Baptism is a call to ongoing transformation. Four key means to ongoing transformation are prayer, study, friendship and service. Each of these needs a permanent place in our everyday lives, but this article is a call to be open to the light that Christ wants to bring into our lives through study.
First, we can study the gospels, daily setting before our minds the wisdom of his words, the beauty of his virtues, the desires of his heart, so that we might long to unite to them more deeply every day.
We can study what the Church says about our vocation. What does she say about married life, about religious life or the priesthood? When we read the beauty of the call to each of these states of life, we experience a resonance with the Lord’s personal call to us and are also freed from fears or mistaken perceptions that might be holding us back or creating sky castles.
The Catechism is another wonderful treasure, packed with the wisdom of the Fathers and testimonies of the saints. Stepping through it slowly and prayerfully will ground us in the faith.
Finally, we can study great literature. The masters of literature raise before us the drama of the human condition. Through their craft, they play a vital role in educating our affective life by moving us to love the good and detest evil. With mind and heart constantly nourished by the light of the Word, we ready ourselves, like Mary, to say the word (fiat) and to receive the Word (Jesus) into our lives. Saying ‘yes’ to God’s will today shapes us to be able to hear and say yes to his will tomorrow.
This article originally appeared in 2018, in Sequitur, a publication of the Vocations Office of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Reprinted with permission.
Fiona Basile10 August 2022
Melbourne Catholic08 August 2022