In his famous prayer, Thomas Merton writes, “the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.”
Could Merton have been thinking of John 7 as he prayed this? These words of challenge and comfort seem to reflect what Jesus wants those who confront him at the Festival of Booths to understand.
The people adhere to the mistaken idea that their observance of Sabbath rules pleases God more than Christ’s act of healing on the Sabbath. They want to think that they are following God’s will, but Jesus makes it clear that they are not. A true desire to please God involves a humility they lack. They presume to know God’s mind, will, and heart, but God’s Son is with them and they do not recognize him.
Jesus tells the people, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (v. 24). His words remind us of what God tells Samuel, “The LORD does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). Jesus knows that if the people see as God sees, they will not be disturbed that Jesus heals on the Sabbath or question the origin of his teaching. They will understand that love is the heart of God’s law. “Look deeper,” Jesus seems to say, “and seek God’s heart.”
Jesus calls each of us to know the love in God’s heart and let that love live in our own.
How will you strengthen and respond to your desire to please God today?
God, “I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.” When I am confused or wracked with guilt, help me remember that your continuing call to love is bigger than my failures at doing so. Amen.