As part of the process of becoming a priest, I had to answer the question: Do you believe that it is God's will that you become a priest? I found it a very difficult question to answer. I had felt my vocation for a long time, and it had grown stronger and stronger and in the end more or less overpowered me. But when I was asked by the church authorities, Do you think this is God's will for you?, I found it very difficult to give a straightforward answer. My sense of calling was strong and real. My hesitation was not because I doubted my calling. I hesitated simply because I have always found it difficult to say that this or that is God,s will. From time to time I have met people who have said confidently: God says X, or God says Y, or God wants us to do Z,. Often these people have come very conservative backgrounds. Sometimes they have linked the will of God to social or political issues. When I hear someone say something like this, I marvel at their certainty. It is so easy to confuse our will with God's will, using God to justify whatever we want to do. This can lead to intolerance, or worse.
So how are we to know the will of God? The responsorial psalm (Ps. 24) begins by asking God to show us his ways and teach us. From this we conclude that it takes time and humility, for, as the psalm goes on to say, it is the humble who can be taught by God. In the second reading (Phil. 2.1-11) St Paul calls on one of the earliest Christian communities to be loving and tender to one another, and to put the interests of others first rather than each person asserting their own will and dominating others. He gives us a moving picture of Christ as setting aside his divine glory to reach out to us. The message is that if Christ is prepared to be humble, and to serve others, his followers must do the same. Finally, in the gospel (Mt. 21.28-32) we learn that notorious sinners were able to come to know God's love before the respectable did. Those who believed that they had no need of God failed to recognise God's call.
From today,' scriptures, I would say that if faced with choices, we should ask which choice increases our ability to serve others. We could also ask about who we depend on when we choose. Are we confident in our own power? Or are we confident because we know that God is always there? God loves us, and strange though it may seem, his strength is known most by those who are aware of their own weakness. Those of ill repute entering the Kingdom had discovered that already. In short, God's will is shown by the signs of love, service, changed lives and respect for others.
Fr Terry Tastard is Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Church, Brook Green, London W6.