“Trust not in your own knowledge…but rather in the grace of God” (IC 1,7,1) “Not as man sees does God see, because he sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart.”

Another common early theme of Kempis (1,7) is the insufficiency of our own learning as compared to the inscrutability of God.  Here, again, he warns the reader to have faith in God much more than in our own limited knowledge, as deep as it may be.

For Samuel in the first reading (1 Sam 16:1-13), in looking for the next king to replace the disgraced Saul, he is led by God to the family of Jesse in Bethlehem to pick the new monarch from among his sons.  In seeing the first born’s handsome “appearance” and “lofty stature,” and undoubtedly considering his status as the eldest, Samuel was sure this would be the chosen one.  Not so, God tells Samuel, then speaks the words in the headline to him.  After going through one son after the other, likely from oldest to youngest, Samuel finally has to ask Jesse if there are any more sons, for Samuel was assured that the next king was among them.  This is when we finally meet the humble shepherd boy, David, the youngest of the group, who is immediately anointed by Samuel.

Thus, we have another cautionary tale for our own lives.  It seems to me that too often folks are very quick to attribute positive events or circumstances to God’s ordained will.  A certain dynamic person comes into our lives unexpectedly so he must have been sent by the Lord.  Look at how all these circumstances fell into place for me so that I am able to attain this thing I desire.  What good fortune that I am able to pursue this matter uninhibited.

Now it may well be that God has actively intervened on our behalf in certain matters we desire.  But we must be careful.  We can be tempted by appearances to think that we know best.  Rather, we are to keep up regular conversation with God, place all things in His loving hands, and ask for a discerning heart (here a spiritual director can be of great help to give an objective evaluation of situations).  And, of course, as Kempis indicates, have recourse to the sacraments, the ordinary means of grace, to receive this free gift from God that surpasses all human knowledge.

Samuel anoints David by Mattia Preti (1613-1699)

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