Friday, May 15, 2015

Chosen By Christ

Recently a friend sent me a book that has completely engaged my attention. It is one of those books that I suspect will have a profound effect on the way that I pray, preach, and read the scriptures. Even though I've been reading it for a couple of weeks, I've only managed to get through three chapters. At the end of almost every paragraph, I find myself saying, "I need to read that again." Entitled, "God and His Image: An Outline of Biblical Theology," the book, thus far, has offered innumerable points of meditation. 

This evening as I was reading, I came upon a line that really struck me. In discussing why it was that the Hebrews chose Yahweh to be their God, the author writes, "Yahweh is not a God you would choose; He is a God who chooses you." God chose Abraham. God chose Moses. God chose David. God chose--most especially--the Blessed Virgin Mary. Jesus chose the apostles. God chose the Hebrew people. He chooses us.

From the time I was a young boy, I always had the sense that I might someday become a priest. But, I can recall vividly the moment when sitting in the Our Lady Chapel of Sacred Heart Church in North Quincy during adoration, I had this overwhelming sense that God was choosing me to be a priest. Being chosen by God is an essential and irreplaceable element of the Christian life. This election by God is always a total act of gratuitous mercy. When we lose the sense of being chosen, we lose the flavor of Christian life. When we recognize that we are chosen, there arises within us a desire to respond with zeal and with generosity.
Before Holy Thursday Mass 

This past year, during the Sacred Triduum, I had a renewed wonder at the mystery of being chosen. Something happened during Holy Week among our community. It was not something that we created. I had this same experience as a parish priest. We all of a sudden realize, for reasons unknown to us, that God has chosen us. He begins to work wonders among us--perhaps producing vocations to the priesthood from us, drawing people to the sacraments among us, forming a people who love one another and who worship God. The specific wonders differ in each individual and in each community. If asked to, you couldn't write down a formula for how it happens. Sure, you can say things like, "We pray for vocations," or, "We offer frequent confession times and have adoration." You can say that we host social events and share meals together. True as these things might be, they can't account for what actually happens. 

How did the Red Sea part? Well, Moses held out his arms. The explanation kind of falls short. The Red Sea parted because God had chosen the Hebrew people. The Hebrew people are called to live constantly the memory of their being chosen. Similarly, the more we live from the memory of our own election by Christ, the more God works his wonders in our midst. Without this sense of wonder at God's merciful and gratuitous gaze upon us, we attempt to make our own miracles. We try to stir up enthusiasm for our projects, but these projects become modern towers of Babel. All of us, at one time or another, want to build our Tower of Babel. It is our perpetual temptation to accomplish something miraculous with our own hands. We want to be great by our own making. So did Adam.

Our true greatness comes, however, from the fact that the God who created the heavens, the earth, and all that they contain has chosen us as His own. He has chosen us to be His people. He has chosen us to be his disciples, his friends, His adopted sons and daughters. We are His people. 

As I write these words, in my mind's eye I see the faces of so many people with whom I have shared the experience of suddenly realizing, "He has chosen us." Whether it is during the Mass or sitting at table together and enjoying each other's friendship, there are these beautiful moments when you know that everyone is suddenly aware that we have been chosen by Him. We didn't make anything. He just chose us and is working His power and glory among us. 

When we gaze together with humble and awestruck hearts upon the great mystery of our being chosen by Christ, amazing things happen among us. If we fix our gaze upon ourselves--our plans, our strategies, our possessions, our strengths, our sins, our enemies, our ingenuity--we lose everything. Instead, when we turn our eyes to meet His gaze upon us, we discover that He looks upon us with love, and this love alone is what builds a Kingdom that lasts forever.

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