Back in the 1990’s, there was a group of initials (WWJD) that found its way across the United States and the world. Anything that could display print, especially wristbands, was used to promote the slogan “What would Jesus Do?” My recollection of this “movement” was that it spread like wildfire and lasted for years. To ask the question that WWJD poses in the process of discernment became a sure way to pray for guidance to do the right thing in a given situation. To take action on the outcome of discernment is the subject of this article.
What Would Jesus Do?
While asking what Jesus would do is a very good start in discerning God’s will, I felt then (and do now) that it is only the beginning. The other half of the equation, in my estimation, would be “What does God want me to do”, or WDGWMTD. I don’t expect to start a new movement or franchise WDGWMTD, but rather provide food for thought as to what God wants me to do in any given situation. In fact, my first attempt at this was WWGWMTDIAGS (What would God want me to do in any given situation?” I realized that most wristbands and t-shirts wouldn’t accept that many letters!
Contemplating and meditating upon the behavior and example of Jesus while He lived among us is worthy of serious time and attention. The Incarnation of Christ, as a part of the Paschal Mystery, is upheld by the Church as the source and summit of our faith. As members of the Body of Christ, we are invited and challenged to become part of the ongoing incarnation. To that end, we move from a place of admiration and passivity to one of participation and action in the Paschal Mystery. While Mass is the ultimate expression of the Paschal Mystery, we are called to live in it every moment of every day. We are summoned to holiness and invited to participate in the very movement of the Blessed Trinity while we are on Earth. The words “through Him, with Him and in Him” are at the heart of the Eucharistic Prayer as well as our very existence as baptized Christians.
A Divine Dance
The movement within the Blessed Trinity has been described as a divine dance by the Greek word, perichoresis. Imagine being able to witness this heavenly choreography. Now imagine being invited to be a participant! As improbable as that sounds, it is precisely what Christian discipleship entails. Father Ronald Rolhesiser, in his book The Holy Longing quoting author John O’Shea, points out that Jesus is “not a law to be obeyed or a model to be imitated, but a presence to be seized and acted upon”. Full, active, conscious participation at Mass and throughout the days and weeks of our lives according to our best discernment of God’s will is a sure path to enter into the divine dance.
Recognition of the Laity
In the great sweep of change that Vatican II brought about, nothing stands more pronounced than the involvement and recognition of the laity in the life of the Church. Just as Christ is a presence to be seized, the laity is upheld in the documents of the council as the People of God and the Body of Christ. Pope Paul VI wrote in 1965:
The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it. Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church (cf. Acts 11:19-21; 18:26; Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:3).
Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified. With a constantly increasing population, continual progress in science and technology, and closer interpersonal relationships, the areas for the lay apostolate have been immensely widened particularly in fields that have been for the most part open to the laity alone. These factors have also occasioned new problems which demand their expert attention and study. This apostolate becomes more imperative in view of the fact that many areas of human life have become increasingly autonomous. This is as it should be, but it sometimes involves a degree of departure from the ethical and religious order and a serious danger to Christian life. Besides, in many places where priests are very few or, in some instances, deprived of due freedom for priestly work, the Church could scarcely exist and function without the activity of the laity. DECREE ON THE APOSTOLATE OF THE LAITY APOSTOLICAM ACTUOSITATEM
The “sleeping giant” of the lay faithful became awakened and is still in the process of rising. The movement from spectator to participant in liturgy and parish life has been brought about through a fresh understanding of the baptismal dignity that all of the people of God share.
By considering WWJD and WDGWMTD, a third way emerges. For instance, Jesus chose an itinerant, celibate way of life when He walked among us. In discerning a vocation to the priesthood, it would be wise to examine the life of Jesus as well as a taking a prayerful look as to whether the former and the latter are a match.
There is an age-old conflict between Catholics and Protestants as to faith versus works. Rather than staying mired in an either/or proposition that separates faith and action, we can move to a both/and model. In this way, we can work to foster Ecumenism while praying for the grace to discern in the light of what Jesus would do and what He wants us to do.