What does the will, pots and humility have to do with anything? I will unravel this a little bit further in today’s post.
Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for a noble purpose and another for an ignoble one? – Romans 9:21
I have been spending a lot of time trying to better understand the faculties of the soul, in particular the will and the intellect. The intellect can be discussed in another post, but today will just be a brief discussion on the will (or the rational appetite).
I find the will of humans very intriguing. When I speak of the will, I mean that of the rational soul, not animals or vegetation. You may or may not have experienced the following challenge in life, but have you ever dealt with anyone who had a strong view on something, and would never budge from it? Well, you can thank their will for that! The reason I find the will this intriguing is thus: the will is the faculty that consents to the good presented to it from the intellect, and in turn, can drive the intellect to pursue certain things it believes to be the good. If the will is damaged, or, poorly formed, and if nothing good is presented to it from the intellect, it can become near impossible to undo the damaging effects of this as time passes on.
This we have all observed experimentally in our lives. Have you ever gotten into a discussion with friends that are non-believing, or non-Christian, and end up leaving more frustrated after the discussion was done? Did it almost seem like the individual dismissed everything you said, without any valid reason or opinion, and just remained stubborn? This is the consequence of a will that is fixed in it’s way. We have to really sit back and think why this is the case. This is ultimately the result of years, and decades of forming the will to act on what it believes to be the good based on the information available to it from the senses. If we feed an individual certain information to the intellect, their wills be formed to what is presented to them. This can be very good, and very bad.
Now, from the view of a Catholic, the only time it is good to conform your will to something is the will of God. Some may bark back and say, “Hey, you just said that we should be careful about what we conform our will to!” Yes, that is true. You see, the belief we have as Catholics is that God’s will is the only good will. That is a tough pill for many modernists, relativists, non-Christians, and non-believers to swallow. Why do we do this? Well, we have it on good authority that God Himself came down to earth 2000 years and told us to observe all these things. We believe in good faith to the testimony presented to us by the Apostles 2000 years on. Based on the information provided to the intellect, though we may lack full comprehension of the matter, and do not have first hand experience, we nevertheless have faith in their testimonies because the evidence, although it seems to good to be true, is still good to the will.
So what now? If a child is formed in a family that is non-believing, that regular feeds it anti-Catholic teachings, and this child ends up not believing in God later on, how can they be held accountable to God at judgement?
You will say to me then, “Why (then) does he still find fault? For who can oppose his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Will what is made say to its maker, “Why have you created me so?” – Romans 9″19-20
This is one of those areas that we accept ultimately as a mystery. What we do know is that God does will that all of mankind be united to Him. How he does so, is impossible for us to know or appreciate. Our instant reaction is to call God unjust, but this is foolish. We as finite creatures are unable to understand the infinite God’s way. Again, a tough pill to swallow, but this is where faith is rooted.
Ultimately, the nature of free will allows each individual to respond to everything in their own way. It is in my mind that God is real, and He has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit is currently acting through the Catholic Church. Others, based on what is presented to them, will reject this. God is very good in this case: He even gives us the freedom to deny Him. But what is the consequence of this denial? The consequence is that once the human will is bent on going in the opposite direction to the will of God, the further it diverges from His will, the less likely it will be able to return to Him. Those who oppose His will willingly throughout their lives, risk eternal damnation.
What is the solution? Let us look at the analogy of the clay in the potters hand. So as long as the clay is soft, and moldable to the potter, the clay will in no way hamper the design of the potter. Our wills are the clay, and God is the potter. What is the means by which we can be soft and moldable? Humility. Humility is the water, the moisture in the clay, that allows our will it be moldable in the hands of God. If we allow God to mold us, and we leave our design to Him, He will ensure that the vessel formed is most pleasing to Him. However, if the water in the clay dries up too fast, or if it is not replenished through humility, we risk becoming a hard, unfitting piece of pottery for the Lord. This is what happens to the will of those who lack humility over time. The clay takes on an ugly form, and the potter is unable (ordinarily) to make the clay moldable again.
Can God make a harden piece of clay into a soft one? Yes, but this is more extraordinary than ordinary. Does God give everyone the grace to stay as moldable clay? Yes He does. All this is only achievable by grace, but due to our free will, we can reject that grace. In extreme cases, God could intervene through miraculous means of infusing it the hard clay with water (think extraordinary grace). Other times, the potter may have to reach the individual in more striking ways, such as through suffering.
I want to conclude with this. Humility will help ensure that our will are moldable in the hands of God. By this, we ensure that the Lord shapes us to what He deems fit. From this conformity to His will, He will supply us with the graces to advance to the peaks of perfection. I also want you to consider that when dealing with any individual, keep their will in your mind. Grace can work to change the will of someone, but it is ever so gentle. The will is a very stubborn faculty, but when it is bent on doing the will of God, that is great. If, however, the will is bent on self-love, know what you are getting yourself into. If you have family members, friends, spouses, who are caught in this trap, pray for them and be patient. Sometimes pray may be the only solution.
Blessed Mother, pray for us that we may receive the virtue of humility!