And he made from one every nation of men to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after him and find him. Yet he is not far from each one of us.
As Catholics we are obliged to bear witness to Jesus Christ. At the same time, we are not obliged to try to peer into the inscrutable counsels of God and decide who is and is not responding to the promptings of his Spirit. Blessed Theophan the Recluse once said (more or less): “You ask, will the heterodox be saved… Why do you worry about them? They have a Savior Who desires the salvation of every human being. He will take care of them. You and I should not be burdened with such a concern. Study yourself and your own sins.” Blessed Theophan was echoing something found in today’s verse. In many ways beyond our understanding, God is at work in the world calling to those who do not know him by name, for he loves them more than we can imagine. At the same time, we must recognize that the work of the Spirit in the hearts of those who do not know him by name is not an excuse for us to neglect the task of evangelism. It is, rather, the groundwork for that task. As St. Paul said to the Athenians seeking God, “What you worship as unknown, I now proclaim to you” (Acts 17:23).