Sunday Homily - March 21, 2021 - What Do You Want?


Christ the High Priest Icon


Lent V
Jeremiah 31:31-34
Psalm 51:1-13
Hebrews 5:5-10
John 12:20-33


I.

It's lunchtime,
 you are hungry,
  and you are trying to figure out how to solve this problem.

How many of you have you ever had the following conversation with someone:

"Where do you want to go to eat?"
 "I don't know, what do you want?"

Now, depending on how diverse you are in your food pallet,
 this question is either quite exciting
  or the source of deep dread. 

There are some in the world who are up for anything:
 they like a lot of things,
  and they could in fact want any number of food options.

But there are also some in the world
 who have no clue what they want!
  Even the thought of having to entertain options for eating
   is the source of stress, uncertainty, and confusion.
    "I don't know what I want! YOU pick some place!"

But, something that is common in both circumstances
 is that both people have to come to a clarity
  about what they really want.

What is it that I really want to have?
 What do I will to eat for lunch?

Guess what, friends?
 The reason why something as benign as choosing what to eat
  is often so very difficult
   is because many of us don't take adequate time to consider
    exactly what it is that we really want.

Food aside,
 think about far more important areas in your life.
  
What do you really want?

What do you want out of your own life?
 What do you want for your kids and grandkids?
  What do you want for your community?
   What do you want for the world?

These are highly complicated questions,
 far more intricate than just trying to figure out what you want for lunch.

And yet, 
 if we can't figure out what food we want to eat,
  how on earth can we reliably will something certain for bigger areas of life?

This is the complicated problem of our human will. 
 And it is also the source of endless problems.

II.

Think about the chosen people of God,
 Israel.

The Lord, 
 out of his perfect loving will,
  liberated his enslaved people
   from the hand of Egypt.

And yet, just like an unruly child,
 the people of Israel had immense problems with their own wills.
  One moment, they cry out to God to help them,
   and seemingly the next moment they will to go back to Egypt.

They trust God one moment,
 vowing to do the will of God,
  and the next moment their own wills get in the way
   sinning against the statutes of the covenant God made with them
    and in the process oppressing even their neighbors
     to satisfy their own selfishness.

Now, before we feel to good about ourselves,
 the same issues of unruly wills
  are very apparent and present in Jesus's own apostles.

St. Peter,
 the first among the apostles,
  confesses Jesus as Son of God one moment (the Lord's will be done)
   and yet the next moment rebukes Jesus 
    when he reveals he must die and rise again (MY will be done).

St. Paul eloquently put this problem in perspective
 even about his own self,
  where he writes in an understandingly exasperated tone,
   "The good I want to do, I don't do. Yet the evil I don't want to do, that's what I do!"

But, this is where Jesus Christ gives us both the power and example
 of what it means to live the perfect will of God. 

And it is the often misunderstood concept
 of obedience.

In the Letter to the Hebrews and in the Gospel of John this morning,
 we see this important principle
  being lived out specifically in Christ Jesus. 

Jesus, in perfect union and obedience to the Father,
 empowered with the anointing of the Holy Spirit,
  enacts God's perfect will for the world:
   that all might be saved through Jesus's Passion and bodily Resurrection.

Jesus, in submitting his human will to the divine and perfect will of the Father,
 crushes the selfishness of a distorted human will
  under the power of the greatest commandments of all:
   to love God perfectly, 
    and to love our neighbors as ourselves. 

To be obedient to a higher calling,
 a more perfect will,
  is exactly what Jesus demonstrates for us as his disciples.

And we, in turn,
 are called to crucify the unruly will of the flesh
  and to rise to new life in the perfect will of God.

III.

So, how do we,
 how should we,
  begin to turn our own often misguided wills over to God?

We start where Jesus starts:
 obedience to God's perfect will,
  a will that is so ultimately and completely good for us
   that the following of it brings life not only to ourselves,
    but to the world around us. 

But we also need to recognize something very important:
 it is impossible for us to will the right things
  without God's help.

We cannot will the good for ourselves or the world
 without God's help.
  Without Christ's intercession for us to the Father,
    without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit
     to direct and rule us according to God's perfect will.

And as we begin to feel the rumble in the ground
 of the quickly approaching Holy Week
  where we will see Jesus crucified and buried,
   we do well to recognize how disfigured our wills can actually become,
     even to the point that we crucify the very Son of God.

We have placed the nails in Christ's hands.
 We have taken the hammer and driven them in.

And yet, even then,
 Jesus has done it all for our healing,
  and accomplishes something that we not only could not do ourselves
   but wouldn't even have the will to do:
    to save even those who hate him
     to love those who kill him,
      to save those who cannot even recognize him.

Pray, friends,
 that our wills may come under the gracious obedience
  to the perfect will of God,
   that our lives may truly be alive,
    that our communities may become holy,
     and that God's will truly be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

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