THE QUIET CORNER

Gospel a reminder that our Christian lives are not left to chance

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If you were walking along the beach at Narragansett and you noticed a wristwatch in the sand, would you pick up the wristwatch and remark, “Oh, look! The wind and the sand and the waves and the shells and the sea weed and fish bones all came together at the just the right moment and produced this wristwatch!”? Or would you more likely comment, “Oh, look! Someone lost their watch!” The likelihood of a wristwatch being constructed by an accident of nature is highly unlikely. The thought is absurd. Well, if timepieces don’t result from chance neither does this glorious universe that mankind inhabits. The order in the stars, planets and heavenly bodies, the productive harmony known as the four seasons, the intricate coordination found in the human body, the unfailing resilience of humanity and nature after assorted disasters – surely these are evidence that initiating and guiding the destiny of this earth is what the Greeks called the “Nous” or the “Mind,” and what the Semitic peoples called “God” and what we Christians know as “the Father.”

A mindless universe, a Godless universe, a universe without the Father, would be chaos. Today’s society indirectly acknowledges the need for an ordering mind underlying the universe when it decries the harm done by exploiting the universe. Global warming, exploitation of forests, misuse of fossil fuels, even poor diets and excessive indulgences indicate that there is indeed an order in the universe that mankind upsets at his own peril.

The human race lives not only in a physically ordered universe but also in a morally ordered universe. The Supreme Intellect that orders the cycles of nature also orders the choices made by man. If upsetting the law of gravity would mean havoc to human history, upsetting the moral law likewise brings catastrophe to daily life. Men and women instinctively know that murder and rape and thievery and slander are wrong – daily headlines notwithstanding. Morality, like physics, is innate – even if not always observed.

So earthly society exists in an ordered universe and a moral universe. But even more importantly, the human family lives in a personal universe. The Supreme Intellect of the Greeks and the Transcendent God of Israel has been revealed through Christ as a loving Father vitally and individually concerned about each of his children. In the first reading this coming Sunday, God’s paternal concern for the sinful inhabitants of Nineveh is reflected in the effective preaching mission of Jonah. “When God saw by their actions how they turned from their evil way, he repented of the evil that he had threatened to do to them; he did not carry it out.” The Father takes a personal interest in his children even when they err. Sometimes the Father can seem abrupt with his children who need guidance as when St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “I tell you, brothers and sisters, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away.” A demanding but sympathetic Father does not want his children to miss the time of their visitation. He challenges them to respond.

But the Fatherhood of God goes beyond chastisements and challenges. The personal God of Christianity has a unique destiny for each of his children. Every man and woman on earth has an individual vocation, a singular role known by God from all eternity, a distinct opportunity to glorify God and enrich mankind. In this Sunday’s Gospel, the call of the first Apostles is a reminder to all believers that our Christian lives are not left to chance. “As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.” Through the Holy Spirit and the teachings of Christ each believer can discern his or her divinely ordained responsibility in history. Each of us has been called. God the Father who wisely orders his physical universe wants kindly to direct the human heart as well.