St. John Fisher, reviewing the history of salvation, marvels at God’s goodness and generosity and the ingratitude of humanity in the face of such unmerited and lavish gifts. He challenges us to move from being ungrateful to being full of wonder and appreciation.
First of all God freed the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, with many signs and wonders. Then he let them cross the Red Sea dry-shod; in the desert he fed them with food from heaven in the form of manna and quails; when they were thirsty he gave them an inexhaustible spring of water, bubbling from the rock.
He gave them victory over enemies that attacked them; he made the Jordan flow backwards for them; he took the land he had promised them and divided it between them according to their tribes and clans. Although he had dealt with them so lovingly and generously, the ungrateful people abandoned the worship of God, as if they had utterly forgotten everything, and shackled themselves with the crime of idol-worship – not once but many times.
Then God took us, although we were pagans, and irresistibly drawn towards dumb idols, if anything. He cut us off from the wild olive tree of our gentile nature and grafted us on to the true olive tree of the Jewish people, pruning away its existing branches and making us sharers in its grace, its richness, and the nourishment that came from its roots. Finally God did not spare his own Son but gave him up to benefit us all, a victim and fragrant offering to God to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own.
All these things are not mere arguments but genuine signs of God’s love and God’s generosity.
We men, on the other hand, are supremely ungrateful: we have gone far beyond the boundaries of all previous ingratitude. We pay no attention to God’s love, we do not recognize the scale of his generosity, but we spurn the source and giver of all these good things and practically hold him in contempt. Not even the outstanding mercy he shows to sinners moves us to order our lives and actions according to his holy law.
Clearly these acts of God deserve to be written down in the next generation, so that they are remembered for ever. Thus all who in future bear the name of Christians will recognize God’s goodness to us and will never at any time cease from offering praise to him.
This excerpt from St. John Fisher’s commentary on Psalm 101 is used in the Roman Catholic Office of Readings for Friday of the 3rd week in ordinary time with the accompanying biblical reading taken from Deuteronomy 31:1-23.