No one can move towards the Lord unless the Lord first moves him. The Lord has said: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44; cf. v 65). It is by the movement of God’s Spirit that we can raise our hearts to him. In other words, we do not call God; he calls us. We do not choose God; he chooses us (cf. John 15:16). God’s grace is at work in us drawing us toward him. Greatness and salvation all come from him. Scripture again says that the Lord has chosen us in his Son Jesus Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Eph 1:3-5). Everyone has been chosen to fulfill the holiness of God. In this consists our blessing. And there is nothing to boast here, for, the reality is that we are chosen not because we qualify, but because our God is gracious and merciful unto us (cf. Eph 2: 8-9). Everyone who has been chosen by God is a “surprise pick.” God indeed surprises us with his love. Throughout Sacred Scripture we find that the great men and women chosen by God recognized with humility their own unworthiness of the divine call. A few examples will help.
First, there is the call of Isaiah. When Isaiah beheld the glory and holiness of Yahweh, he was overwhelmed. Immediately he recognized his own unworthiness. Moreover, he did not take the vision for granted. He knew that only God could make him worthy of the prophetic call. Isaiah knew he was a “surprise pick.” No qualification of his own could earn him the vision of the Lord’s holiness and the call to the prophetic office. Second, we think of the encounter between Jesus and Simon Peter (and fellow fishermen) by the lake of Gennesaret (cf. Luke 5:1-11). At first, things seem quite normal when the Lord teaches from Simon’s boat. Peter and his friends had “toiled all night and took nothing” (Luke 5:5). Then comes the great moment: the miraculous catch of fish. At once, Peter knew what was stake. He recognized whom he was dealing with: the Lord of earth, sky and sea, Jesus of Nazareth! He is overwhelmed by the revelation of the Lord’s power. Humbly he confesses: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). Of course, Jesus had chosen Simon and he would not depart from him. In fact, Jesus surprises Simon even further: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). At this point, it is clear to Simon that he does not deserve, nor is he qualified to be called by the Lord. Like Isaiah, Simon too knows that he is a “surprise pick.” Finally, let us consider Paul, the Apostle. In his own words: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me” (1Cor 15:8-9). It takes the free initiative of God to call Paul to the apostolic office. Paul humbly admits that judging by the standards of his past record, he is unfit to be chosen and called by the Lord. He too is a “surprise pick.”
In conclusion, we must acknowledge that Isaiah, Peter and Paul lived in different times and circumstances. Yet, like all three, we have been chosen and called to fulfill the same holiness of God according our own circumstances. The underlying truth is that, none of us qualifies to be chosen by God for anything. Everything has come as a free gift from God. Of course, this is not to imply that we are mere passive recipients of God’s gift. God himself enables us to respond to his gifts with humility and active faith. What is clear, though, is that it is not our record which earns us the divine calling. It is not our good works which move God to choose us. On the contrary, God calls us according to his own good pleasure. Chosen by God, each one of us must humbly consider himself (herself) a “surprise pick.” At a point during David’s reign, God surprised with a message from the prophet Nathan which contained the promise of everlasting dynasty (cf. 2Sam 1:1-17). After Nathan had uttered the prophetic words, Scripture says “Then King David went in and sat before the LORD, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that thou hast brought me thus far?’” (2Sam 7:18). Who is worthy of the Lord? Who deserves to be chosen and called? Who qualifies? The honest answer is: no one. All that we are and all that we have today is by the grace of God. We all are in God’s team not because we passed the trials or the interview or we possess a remarkable record. We are in his team because God is gracious and kind to us, overlooking our fundamental unworthiness. Each one of us is a “surprise pick” for God’s team. Whatever we are today, to God be all the glory! With St. Paul, our humble confession should always be: “By the grace of God I am what I am” (1Cor 15:8).
Invitation to pray:
Dear LORD Jesus, I thank and praise you. I worship you as my Lord and Savior. Cleanse me with your Blood from the sin of pride. Fill me with your Holy Spirit, and transform me into your very likeness. Let your Spirit always remind me that I am what I am by your grace. I give you all the glory and praise, now and forever. Amen.