“Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16: 7
After King Saul fell from grace, God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel among the sons of Jesse. Jesse presented his seven oldest sons, who were “lofty” in appearance, stature, and talent. Samuel was impressed. But one by one, he said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen him.” For God sees beyond human appearances; God “looks into the heart.” Surprisingly, God chose David – Jesse’s eight and youngest son.
We cannot anticipate the choice of God. How God ordains a person for this or that service, or how God allows earthquakes to strike an already suffering people like those in Haiti is unfathomable. God works in mysterious and often incomprehensible ways. Yet, through faith, we glimpse of a God who chooses, blesses, purifies, and transforms particular persons to fulfill specific divine intentions.
In the past month, my Tertian brothers and I have been studying the Jesuit Constitutions and other documents foundational to our way of life. In the process, we have been reflecting on how our choices and habits have taken us toward or away from this pathway to God. In varying degrees, we are humbled to a similar realization, that our limitations, weaknesses, and sinfulness leave us wholly inadequate to the ideals of our Jesuit vocation.
“I am not worthy or deserving …” It’s an admission I hear often from people. Often this awareness comes at the threshold of something beautiful or great, before the unconditional love of God or the radical acceptance by another person. “It’s too good to be true … I am not up to it,” we often react in recoil. We are caught between a desire to say “yes” to this greater offer of love and freedom and a resistance to run away out of fear.
I find myself going through something similar. Although a deep part of me wants to take another step of commitment to my Jesuit calling, another part of me just wants to freeze or flee. I often say to young people: “Don’t focus on whether you are worthy or deserving. It’s the wrong question. When it was announced that she would take a key role in God’s saving plan, Mary did not answer if she was worthy. She already knew her lack. Rather, she answered the question: ‘Will I say “yes” to God?’” In these days, I am challenged to take my own advice.
It seems like the same old lesson: learning to embrace my poverty and trust more. Yet, there is an element of newness, perhaps because I am more in touch with my own fragility and unfaithfulness. It involves another level of risk-taking in God’s mysterious design. I am consoled at Mass when I respond with everyone gathered: “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word …” Without this insight and grace, any step forward seems like death rather than a leaping into life. Receiving the Body of Christ, I hope to see deeper into the heart of things …