Faith is the path on which an encounter takes place between us and God. It is God who takes the first step: He fully and unconditionally believes in us and gives us a sign, an awareness of His presence. We hear the mysterious call of God, and our first step towards an encounter with Him is a response to this call. God may call us openly or in secret, overtly or covertly. But it is difficult for us to believe in Him if we do not first heed this call.
Faith is both a mystery and a miracle. Why does one person respond to the call while another not? Why is one open to receive the voice of God, while the other remains deaf? Why, having encountered God, does one immediately abandon everything and follow Him, but the other turn away and take a different road? ‘As He walked by the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother; for they were fishermen. And He said to them, “Follow Me”… Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. And going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John… and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him’ (Matt.4:18-22).
What secret hides behind the readiness of the Galilean fishermen to abandon everything and follow Jesus at first encounter? Why, on the other hand, did the rich young man, who also heard Christ’s ‘Come and follow Me’, not abandon everything for Him but instead ‘went away sorrowful’ (Matt.19:21-22)? Is it perhaps because the fishermen were poor, while the young man ‘had great possessions’? The former had nothing other than God, while the latter had ‘treasure on earth’.
Each one of us has treasure on earth, whether it be in the form of money or possessions, satisfactory employment or material wellbeing. But the Lord said, ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt.5:3). In St Luke’s Gospel this is put even more simply and directly: ‘Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God’ (Luke 6:20). Blessed are they who realize that while they may possess many things, they in fact own nothing. Blessed are they who realize that no earthly acquisition can substitute for God. Blessed are they who go and sell all their wealth in order to acquire the pearl of great price (cf. Matt.13:45-46). Blessed are they who know that without God they are poor, who have thirsted and hungered after Him with all their soul, mind and will.