Weekly Homilies

Rediscovering God's Will (John 2:13-25)

March 03, 2024 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 7 Episode 9
Rediscovering God's Will (John 2:13-25)
Weekly Homilies

Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 9 of Season 7 for the Third Sunday of Lent - March 3, 2024. Our Gospel reading is from John, Chapter 2, verses 13-25.

Since the Passover of the Jews was near, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. He found in the temple area those who sold oxen, sheep, and doves, as well as the money changers seated there. He made a whip out of cords and drove them all out of the temple area, with the sheep and oxen, and spilled the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables,  and to those who sold doves, he said, “Take these out of here, and stop making my Father’s house a marketplace.” His disciples recalled the words of Scripture: Zeal for your house will consume me.

At this, the Jews answered and said to him, “What sign can you show us for doing this?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews said, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years,  and you will raise it up in three days?”

But he was speaking about the temple of his body. Therefore, when he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this,  and they came to believe the Scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.

While he was in Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, many began to believe in his name when they saw the signs he was doing. But Jesus would not trust himself to them because he knew them all and did not need anyone to testify about human nature. He himself understood it well.

The Gospel of the Lord

“Rediscovering God’s Will,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

You know, very often we look out at our world, we look at ourselves and we try to find language to begin to describe what we're experiencing, what we're seeing, where we're going.  You know, we look within ourselves, and sometimes we feel a bit uneasy, unfulfilled, even a bit unhappy, off-centered.  We look at our world, and there's so much turmoil. And the question becomes, how do we get where we are as a person, as a nation, as a culture, as a world? 

Before the Israelites were given the wonderful gift of the Ten Commandments, the Book of Exodus tells us that, together  as a people, they said,  "Whatever the Lord tells us, we will do."  So the entire people, not just a few,  got together and said, "Whatever the Lord tells us, we will do."  And those Ten Commandments were welcomed with great joy because they brought them the structure, they brought them the wisdom, they brought them the guidelines, they brought them the order that they realized was absent in their lives, and that they so desperately needed.  And so they were seen as this great gift. 

Whatever the Lord tells us, we will do. 

As you look at our own lives, as they unfold every day, as you look at our world, do we witness that same enthusiasm to receive this gift from God? Do we still, as a people, embrace the truth of these Ten Commandments, or has something happened?  Because it appears that life has changed and that enthusiasm maybe has waned, if not a little, then maybe even a lot, to the point where we really don't even want to see those Ten Commandments in public anymore.  

But why?  What is different? 

 Well, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, even though he lived many centuries ago, was one of those wisdom figures that what he taught and what he said is still very relevant today. It's kind of that timeless wisdom.  And he spent a lot of time with the words "self-will." Self-will,  and wrote some very profound reflections about them.  And ultimately, self-will is the intention to please ourselves, the intention to please ourselves. And it's the giving into the satisfaction of our own desires; so the intention to please ourselves and giving into the satisfaction of our own desires.  It comes out, and it gets expressed when we begin using phrases like this:  "We want this."  "We like that."  We think this is right, and we feel like doing such and such.  So when we find ourselves using phrases like, we want this, we like that,  we think this is right, and we feel like doing such and such, that's an expression of self-will.  And as we listen to those expressions and that direction, we say yes, that's the part of what human beings can do. We've all been given this gift of free will, and yes, we can make choices, and we do express our individuality and our preferences by those choices we make.  But the question becomes, when does the exercise of self-will become very selfish and self-focused? When does it go from something that is healthy and good to something that is potentially destructive and not so good?  

Well, St. Bernard tells us that self-will becomes selfish when it finds itself in conflict with God's law,  god's rules,  order,  what we are asked to do,  and the wellbeing of others,  the wellbeing of others.  So, self-will becomes a negative force in our lives when it's not in line with what God wants.  And so it's very easy for self-will to get out of control.  And what's happened over the centuries is we become more focused on our own will and we've lost sight of God's will.  And we struggle with this as a people all the time because it's so easy to justify what we want because it seems at first to be okay. 

Even take the first three commandments: those three commandments all focus us on a devotion and reverence of God,  of creating what we can call sacred time in our lives to making sure that we create that space to give allegiance to our creator and to realize our dependence upon him, but how often we allow other things to encroach on that space.  We make other things so readily little gods in our life that they have the power to take us off center. They become distractions for us, and we almost find ourselves wanting those distractions to get us off of the hook for taking responsibility for bigger things. It's so easy to find a reason not to keep holding the Sabbath day.  It is so easy to find other things to pull us away from where we know we need to be, where we have to be, where ultimately we want to be. But we don't realize that often.  

It's so easy to justify our passions that what we want is okay.  We listen to thou shalt not commit adultery,  but yet we don't think twice often about giving into the passions that we have and justifying behavior that we know is going against that sixth commandment. 

And so over time,  we've kind of backed ourselves out of the Ten, Commandments and we create our own rules,  and we want everyone else to accept our rules and the way we want to play the game of life.  And we forget that God already has given us the guidelines.  We just have to accept them and live them. 

But when self-will and God's will meet, it's not always easy to stretch because we have to leave behind sometimes what we want and what we prefer and what we may feel we want to do because we have to call ourselves to something higher and bigger.  And maybe that's what happened when Jesus went into the temple that day when he opened the doors to the temple and went in and he saw all of this stuff going on.  He got angry because he realized that his father's house was filled with self-will, with a bunch of people pursuing their own stuff of using this sacred space in the wrong way.  And he got angry, and he said, don't do this in my father's house. You're destroying the essence of what it's supposed to be, and he got angry at this self-willed behavior because it was off track, even though they thought what they were doing was okay and was right.  

Could it be that way with us today as well? As Jesus looks out on our world, on us,  could he possibly be unnerved by our absorption in self-will?  In doing what we want to do and what we want to pursue, and what we think is important?  And not giving ear and acknowledgment to God's will? 

After all, we treasure this gift of free will very much.  Did we ever stop to realize who gave it to us?  Did we give it to ourselves?  Did your best friend give you the gift of free will?  Or did that come from your creator, God?  So, if God gave you something that you treasure the most, the freedom to choose, the freedom to exercise your will, doesn't it then stand to reason that, first and foremost, you would want to serve the one who gave the gift and give deference to God's will before you begin to entertain the passions of your own? 

As we continue our Lenten season, perhaps we can reflect a bit on how our self-will conforms to God's will.  And if it does not, then why not? 

Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.