Ordinary Time 21, Year B
- The Word … made his dwelling among us (Jn. 1:14)
It has always been said of St. Vincent that he followed Divine Providence step by step and he did not want to run ahead of it in any way. Before devoting himself to a task, Vincent wanted to be sure that God really did want to make use of him as his instrument. He took his time in discerning, then, what God might be disposing. “But once he was sure,” pointed out Jacques Delarue, “that God desired to make use of him for some work or mission nothing could hold him back, his discerning zeal knew no bounds, his efforts and achievements increased until the fainthearted were stupefied and disquieted.” The faith in Divine Providence that made him wait with patience in order to discover first God’s will in events and persons was the same faith that impelled him to embark upon works of evangelization of the poor and to act with burning zeal and unshakeable determination.
Something like St. Vincent’s faith—even if it was not always like a firm rock or an immense sea, for there were moments of grave doubts which he overcame through a simple but ingenious way of affirming his faith and not giving in to feelings of dereliction—is what I ought to have every time I am faced with having to make a choice between one thing and another in the kind of way that the Israelites and the Twelve were confronted with having to make a decision. This faith should teach me to weigh carefully the pros and cons or, as St. Vincent would put it, to moderate my ardor and weigh things maturely “on the scale of the sanctuary before resolving them.” But after a careful weighing of things, I have to launch myself into making whatever decision Divine Providence may seem to tell me to make. Faith demands that I keep the beat of Providence, neither being left behind nor getting ahead. Wrote St. Vincent to Father Blatiron: “The works of God have their moment. His providence does them then, and not sooner or later ….”
And for someone who cannot keep the beat because he is looking for absolute certainty and hesitates for not finding it, faith itself, it appears, is the remedy, that faith by which we walk—not by sight—because we are still at home in the body and away from the Lord and we see only dimly, as in a mirror (2 Cor. 5:6-7; 1 Cor. 13:12). It would work, I think, the beginning faith that prompts one to seek and ask, “Where are you staying?”, then to go and see where the Teacher stays, and finally to stay with him (Jn. 1:38-39). A personal experience of fellowship that results from such beginning faith makes, not a little, for the person and the teachings of Jesus being finally embraced, no matter how hard his sayings may sound and how demanding, gross and earthy those who represent the Son of God may appear. Fellowship, communion, connaturality, with the one who stays with us, with the Holy One of God who has the words of eternal life, leads to conversion that makes possible for one to accept all the terms, for example, of St. Paul’s teaching in the letter to the Ephesians about the great mystery that refers to Christ and the church, not only the term of subordination but also the term of total-surrendering and self-emptying love.
Such was the case with St. Vincent. Offering himself to God to take the place of an afflicted fellow chaplain and going to visit and serve the Lord in the sick poor of a hospital, to which he subsequently gave a large sum of fifteen thousand livres that he had received as a personal gift, Vincent finally made the decision to devote the rest of his life to the poor, to whom he belonged and whom he had tried to leave behind. Thus emerged Vincent into the light, says Delarue, “established in faith once for all….” Vincent came to understand, I would think, that he could not have his cake and eat it too, that he could not wish to remain a priest and at the same time be in earnest search mainly of an ecclesiastical benefice that would give him enough stipends with which to live in honorable retirement at the side of his mother.
As he invited Vincent, the Word who dwells among us invites me, too: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.” He awaits my visit.