October 14, 2012
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt 6:10).
Of all of the requests, this seems to be the simplest and the most understandable. Indeed, if a person believes in God, it would seem that he submits to God’s will and accepts it, and desires that it should be accepted all around him, on earth, as supposedly as it is in heaven. In reality, however, this is the most difficult petition.
I would have to say, that precisely this petition, “Thy will be done” is the ultimate measurement of faith, the measure by which one can discern, in oneself first of all, profound from superficial faith, profound religiosity from a false one. Why? Because even the most ardent believer all too regularly, if not always, desires, expects, and asks from the God he claims to believe in that God would fulfill precisely his own will and not the will of God. The best proof of this is the Gospel itself, the account of Christ’s life.
Isn’t Christ from the outset followed by nameless crowds of people? And aren’t they following Him because He is accomplishing their will? He is healing, helping, comforting… However, as soon as He starts speaking of the essential, about the fact that a person has to deny himself if he wants to follow Him, about the need to love one’s enemies, and to lay down one’s life for one’s brothers, as soon as this teaching becomes difficult, exalted, a call to sacrifice, a demand of the impossible – in other words as soon as Christ starts to teach about what is the will of God, people immediately abandon Him and, moreover, turn against Him with anger and hatred. This horrifying shouting of the mob at the Cross “crucify Him, crucify Him” (Lk 23:21), it is not because Christ did not fulfill the will of the people?
They only wanted help and healing while He spoke of love and forgiveness. They wanted Him to liberate them from their enemies and grand victory over them while He spoke of the Kingdom of God. They wanted Him to preserve their traditions and customs, while He defied them by eating and drinking with publicans, sinners and harlots. Doesn’t the root and the cause of Judas’ betrayal lie precisely in this disappointment in Christ? Judas anticipated that Christ would fulfill his will, but Christ willingly gave Himself to judgment and death.
This is all described in the Gospels. Subsequently over the next two millennia of Christianity, do we not witness the same drama? What do we together and individually really desire from Christ? Let us admit it- the fulfillment of our will. We desire that God would assure us happiness. We want Him to defeat our enemies. We want Him to realize our dreams and that He would consider us kind and good. And when God fails to do our will we are frustrated and upset, and we are ready over and over to forsake and deny Him.
Fr. Alexander Schmemann
“Our Father” (p.33-35)
(translated from Greek)