Saturday in the First Week of Ordinary Time
Scripture Readings: 1 Sam 9:1-4, 17-19, 10:1; Mk 2:13-17
A number of years ago, Ms. Ann Rice, the acclaimed novelist and agnostic, surprised everyone by announcing she was going to become a Roman Catholic, and then, less than a year later made it known she was leaving the Catholic church, which maybe surprised almost no one. Having struggled to embrace certain harsh sayings of Jesus, Ms. Rice finally parted company with him saying she couldn’t see herself as a follower of someone that judgmental. The defection of this famous writer illuminates an insight of St. Augustine and maybe today’s gospel as well.
Augustine taught that: “God works in us – without us”, meaning, the first initiative; the very possibility of our conversion to God is an action taken in us by God. But, the very next thing we do, we can’t do without God. As St. Paul wrote: “In every way the primacy is God’s.” When we took our monastic vows, the superior solemnly declared: “May God bring to completion the good work God has begun in you.” God gets credit for everything: for the first inkling of a vocation, for all subsequent laboring and growth in our vocation, and for our final perseverance. It is all God’s work in us. The life of grace in us at each moment, is something like God’s signature, authenticating our very existence.
This same insight is expressed in William Wordsworth’s definition of “the spiritual”: the spiritual gives us consciousness of the more, to one who, previously, didn’t even have knowledge of the less. In other words, God’s grace is a mightily creative action, creation out of nothing. It is, for us, pure gain. All this helps us understand what at first might appear an exaggeration or something nonsensical: the apparently instantaneous, unqualified, and total “yes” of Peter to Jesus’ call. “Follow me”, Jesus says to Peter and, we read, “Peter got up and followed him.” “Lord”, Peter will later say: “If we departed from you – to whom would we go? You give us the word of life”. Maybe, a way to make our celebration of the Eucharist this morning a real, heartfelt celebration would be to meditate on this reality of the fullness of life born in us out of nothing by God’s initiative, fostered with our cooperation, no doubt, but ultimately a miracle of undeserved grace and proof that God is real and nearer to us than we are to ourselves.