“You did not choose me, but I chose you” (John 15:16). These words of Jesus challenge the idea that we accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior and that our accepting him is what saves us. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth. Our help is not in the strength of our will or a choice we exercise. Our help and salvation are rooted in the inscrutable will of God who deigned to call us before we were, in any sense, aware that God was calling
The boy Samuel hears the voice of the Lord, but Samuel does not know that it is the Lord. Although Samuel ministers to the Lord before the ark of the covenant under Eli’s direction, he ministers without personal knowledge of the Lord. For, “the word of the Lord was rare in those days; visions were not widespread” (I Sam. 3:1). The Lord calls out to Samuel three times, but “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the Word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (I Sam. 3:7). God speaks, but, at first, Samuel (and we) do not know who is calling or what is happening. Providence is confounding and confusing! “Something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is. Do you, Mr. Jones?” (Bob Dylan)
Turning to another character, we see Nathanael under a fig tree. Philip arrives to tell him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth” (John 1:45). Nathanael follows Philip but with some reservation, asking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Jesus, perhaps respecting Nathanael’s honest doubt, says, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit” (John 1:48). Nathanael, wondering how Jesus recognizes him, asks, “Where did you come to know me?” (John 1:48). Then, Jesus reveals the mystery of divine election, saying, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you” (John 1:48).
Now, turning to you (my reader), another one upon whom the mysterious will and love of God work without your knowing it. What are we to say of the wonderful workings of God? While your body was hidden from you, made in secret, woven in the depths of the earth, God was looking and working, forming and guiding. Even in infancy, God was searching you and knowing you. As you have grown, God observes your “sitting down” and “rising up.” God sees your journeys and resting places. God knows your ways and all your words. In all this, God is not asking for your permission. God will do what God will do.
God acts without your permission, but never contrary to your nature. Grace perfects nature; it does not destroy it. God is making you who you are and who you are meant to be in ways you can never fully know. Eventually, God allows providence to arise in your consciousness, and, mysteriously, you consent to the working of God. You say, like Mary, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). Even this consent, however, is hidden in the prevenient grace of God.
Listen to St. Augustine as he traces his actions toward God to God as the ultimate source.
“I seek you, O Lord, calling on you; and I will call on you, believing in you; for you have been declared to us (me). My faith, O Lord, which you have given me, which you have inspired into me, calls on you” (Confessions, i.i).
Look It Up: I Cor. 6:19
Think About It: You are a temple of countless and unknown blessings.