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St. Thomas Aquinas
Catechetical Instructions

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  • THE THIRD PETITION: "Thy Will Be Done on Earth as It Is in Heaven."
    • LET THY WILL BE DONE
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LET THY WILL BE DONE

 

It must be noted that the very words used in this petition teach us a lesson. It does not say "Do" or "Let us do," but it says, "[Let] Thy will be done," because two things are necessary for eternal life: the grace of God and the will of man. Although God has made man without man, He cannot save man without his cooperation. Thus, says St. Augustine: "Who created thee without thyself, cannot save thee without thyself,"16 because God wills that man cooperate with Him or at least put no obstacle in His way: "Turn ye to Me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn to you."17 "By the grace of God, I am what I am. And His grace in me hath not been void."18 Do not, therefore, presume on your own strength, but trust in God's grace; and be not negligent, but use the zeal you have. It does not say, therefore, "Let us do," lest it would seem that the grace of God were left out; nor does it say, "Do," lest it would appear that our will and our zeal do not matter. He does say "Let it be done" through the grace of God at the same time using our desire and our own efforts.

 

Thirdly, the will of God in our regard is that men be restored to that state and dignity in which the first man was created. This was a condition in which the spirit and soul felt no resistance from sensuality and the flesh. As long as the soul was subject to God, the flesh was in such subjection to the spirit that no corruption of death, or weakness, or any of the passions were felt. When, however, the spirit and the soul, which were between God and the flesh, rebelled against God by sin, then the body rebelled against the soul. From that time death and weaknesses began to be felt together with continual rebellion of sensuality against the spirit: "I see another law in my members, fighting against the law of my mind."19 "The flesh lusteth against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh."20

 

Thus, there is an endless strife between the flesh and the spirit, and man is continually being brought lower by sin. The will of God, therefore, is that man be restored to his primal state so that no more would the flesh rebel against the spirit: "For this is the will of God, your sanctification."21 Now, this will of God cannot be fulfilled in this life, but it will be fulfilled in the resurrection of the just, when glorified bodies shall arise incorrupt and most perfect: "It is sown a natural body; it shall rise a spiritual body."22 In the just the will of God is fulfilled relative to the spirit, which abides in justice and knowledge and perfect life. Therefore, when we say "Thy will be done," let us pray that His will also may be done regarding the flesh. Thus, the sense of "Thy will be done on earth" is that it may be done "for our flesh," and "as it is in heaven" means in our spirit. Thus, we take "in heaven" for our spirit, and "on earth" as our flesh.23

 

By means of this petition we arrive at the happiness of those who mourn, as it is written: "Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted."24 This can be applied to each of the threefold explanations we have given above. According to the first we desire eternal life. And in this very desire we are brought to a mourning of soul: "Woe is me, that my sojourning is prolonged."25 This desire in the Saints is so vehement that because of it they wish for death, which in itself is something naturally to be avoided: "But we are confident and have a good will to be absent rather from the body and to be present with the Lord."26 Likewise, according to our second explanation - viz., that we will to keep the Commandments  - they who do so are in sorrow. For although such be sweet for the soul, it is bitter indeed for the flesh which is continually kept in discipline. "Going, they went and wept," which refers to the flesh, "But coming, they shall come with joyfulness," which pertains to the soul.27 Again, from our third explanation (that is, concerning the struggle which is ever going on between the flesh and the spirit), we see that this too causes sorrow. For it cannot but happen that the soul be wounded by the venial faults of the flesh; and so in expiating for these the soul is in mourning. "Every night," that is, the darkness of sin, "I will wash my bed [that is, my conscience] with my tears."28 Those who thus sorrow will arrive at the Fatherland, where may God bring us also!

 

 

 

 




16. "Super Verbum Apost.," XV.

 



17. Zach., i. 3

 



18. I Cor., xv. 10.

 



19. Rom., vii. 23.

 



20. Gal., v. 17.

 



21. Thess., iv. 3.

 



22. I Cor., xv. 44.

 



23. "When we say, 'Thy will be done,' we expressly detest the works of the flesh, of which the Apostle writes: 'The works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, lust, etc.' (Gal., v. 19); 'if you live according to the flesh you shall die' (Rom. viii. 13). We also pray God not to permit us to yield to the suggestions of sensual appetite, of our lusts, of our infirmities, but to govern our will by His will" ("Roman Catechism," "loc. cit.," 14).

 



24. Matt., v. 5.

 



25. Ps. cxix. 5.

 



26. II Cor., v. 8.

 



27. Ps. cxxv. 6.

 



28. Ps. vi. 7.




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