The first reading at Mass today, the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time, presents us with a paradox.
We can know nothing of what God wills/we know what God wills. What spans the gap is that God reveals his will, shares with us his wisdom.
What man indeed can know the intentions of God?
Who can divine the will of the Lord?
The reasonings of mortals are unsure
and our intentions unstable;
for a perishable body presses down the soul,
and this tent of clay weighs down the teeming mind.
It is hard enough for us to work out what is on earth,
laborious to know what lies within our reach;
who, then, can discover what is in the heavens?
As for your intention, who could have learnt it, had you not granted Wisdom
and sent your holy spirit from above?
Thus have the paths of those on earth been straightened
and men been taught what pleases you,
and saved, by Wisdom.
But what has God taught us? Commandments that you shall do this, and shall not do that? Useful, but far from sufficient. Even with the teasing out of law in Torah, there often does not seem to be law for this or that situation.
One of the difficulties Jesus faced is that he offered a different reading of the Law. So different he was condemned for breaking the Law. The most faithful was accused of being unfaithful!
Something of that experience has been there for good Christians ever since. And in our day too, we struggle to be faithful but again and again the proffered summations of faith and morals can regularly seem to lead us away from God.
The test must be in the experience: in trying to do the best, guided by tradition, and sustained in lived relationship with the Lord. Evaluated by careful discernment – is this right, how do I know? And that evaluation conducted humbly, not for self-justification, but ready as a child of God to admit fault, failing, and be ready to admit mistakes, foolishness: ready, too, to be forgiven and guided afresh – by the loving God – to more faithful kingdom living…
Image of Holy Spirit. Medjugorje. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.