"In verbo veritatis" (2 Cor 6:7)

April 16, 2019

Seeking because found

His mercy saw you before you knew him, when you were still lying under sin. Did we first seek Christ, or did he seek us first? Did we in our illness go to the Physician, or did he come to the sick? Wasn’t that sheep lost, and didn’t the shepherd leave the ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and seek and find it and joyfully carry it back on his shoulders? Wasn’t that coin lost, and didn’t the woman light a lamp and search through her house until she found it? And when she had found it, she said to her neighbors, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin I lost.” In the same way we were lost like that sheep, lost like that coin…. We were sought so that we might be found, and it is because we were found that we are speaking. There is no pride in this because before we were found, we would have been lost if we had not been sought…. We are seeking you lest you be lost. We are seeking you because we were sought. We want to find you because we were found. (Tr. in Ioannis Evang., v, 12; PL 35, 1448)

A major theme in Augustine is that of seeking in order to find, finding in order to seek, but here it’s his (our) being sought and found that inspires the Christian imperative and motivates his ministry. “We seek you because we were found.” Another way of expressing that the imperatives that ought to drive our Christian hearts are immediate implications of the indicatives that state what we have received. How can those shown mercy not show mercy? How can those sought and found not seek in order to find?

Perhaps you know Pascal’s variation on the theme in the fragment in which he has Christ say: “You would not have sought me if you had not already found me.” I’m not sure that Augustine would have put it that way, but I would love to be a bug on the wall as Pascal and he talk with one another about it. I think they might have agreed that to begin to seek God is already the work of God’s grace. It’s somewhat like when Augustine says that to cry out from the depths–De profoundis–is already to begin to rise….

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