15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
One of the more uplifting human experiences one can have in this life is to be chosen to do something really important, or to be singled out by someone important to accomplish something more or less important, or simply to hold an important place among our peers. Today’s readings speak to us about various people being chosen by God and predestined by God to accomplish something truly important to God, and to attain an important place in the Kingdom of God.
The prophets were such people, chosen by God for the important role of being God’s messenger’s to the people also chosen by God. Their mission made the prophets like the angels who always serve God, and even when they were rejected, like Amos in today’s first reading, the prophets attained a most important place in the Scriptures and in God’s Kingdom.
Likewise the apostles were chosen by Christ, and they were sent by Christ to accomplish his work of salvation, as we see in today’s Gospel where they are chosen ans sent to preach repentance, to cast out demons, and to anoint and heal the sick. It’s just their first mission, and later on these chosen ones will not only preach repentance, but like Jesus, will actually have the power toforgive sins. They will not only expel demons from a few unfortunate souls, but they will liberate countless souls from their enslavement to sin and to Satan, and they will transform children of men into children of God.
Also, like Amos and Jeremiah and other prophets of old, they too will rejected at times, just as Jesus predicted, and they will have to shake the dust of unrepentant places from their feet, and in the end they will all be put to death. But nonetheless they always remain chosen ones, and their place in the Kingdom is forever glorious.
St. Paul goes further in today’s second reading and says that we also, who were not chosen to be among the 12 Apostles, have nonetheless been chosen by God, and predestined by God for something truly wonderful and great, a mission in this world and a glorious place in His Kingdom in the next. Like Paul and the 12 Apostles and the Prophets of old, God chose each of us before the world began, that is, God chose us in Christ, firstly to be redeemed in Him and by Him and to be made holy and blameless in His sight. We have been chosen literally to become God’s adopted children, in Christ, so that we might praise Him in our lives and come to understand the mystery of His plan for us in Christ.
Read that incredibly beautiful second reading from Ephesians again and again, and learn to rejoice in what it says about the way God has specially chosen you, predestined you, and He as done this not just for some earthly importance, but for the very glory of a Kingdom that goes beyond any earthly glory that man can attain through his own efforts.
Indeed, that is the very first thing that has to be understood when it comes to this election of ours: we did absolutely nothing to merit it as men sometimes do merit election, importance and glory in this world.
Secondly, we also cannot reach that ultimate glory on our own. It is primarily God’s work from beginning to end, and if we participate or cooperate in this work – which we must since we are free creatures, nonetheless it always remains a pure gift of God, no matter what degree of merit we accumulate after being chosen and graced by God.
We see this same dynamic operating in the prophets and the apostles; whatever great things they accomplish is always first and foremost God’s accomplishment through them. That fact is precisely why they were told not to worry about what earthly possessions or powers they have; God is the worker who “administers everything.” says St. Paul, “according to His will and counsel.” That’s also why we are not to worry about failure – we may fail but God will accomplish his will even through our failure, or, through our success, as God wills.
The third thing we should understand in this experience of being chosen by God, whether, for a particular mission like the Prophets and Apostles, or for the glory of Christ which happens to a much broader population, is that God actually effects his choice of us and communicates the effects of this choice in us through the ministry of others. He never works in us without some kind of mediator. In the Old Testament his mediators were the angels, the prophets, the priests and at times the Kings of Israel, like David and Solomon.
In the new Testament, however, we have the perfect mediator, the human nature of God’s Son, where God acts through His own humanity, which is a most powerful form of mediation, brought to absolute perfection. Then Jesus Himself chooses mediators of the New Covenant in the persons of His Apostles, and, finally, in a very real sense, the whole church becomes a mediator between God and the unredeemed world.
There is a profound mystery in all of this choosing and mediation. God chooses us and acts upon us, through us, and in us, but always using a form of mediaton. We were chosen directly by God from all Eternity: true. But we were actually chosen and sealed with the Holy Spirit, that is, we were redeemed and made children of God in fact only through a mediator. That mediator is in fact God’s Church, the Church’s sacraments, and the ministers God has chosen to administer these rites of salvation. No one becomes a child of God directly, with the exception of the humanity of Jesus Christ in the Incarnation. The rest of us are purified, adopted, and brought to glory only through the mediation of Jesus, God’s Church and the sacraments.
When I hear someone say that they love Jesus but have no use for the Church, I tremble at the misunderstanding involved. It’s like the people who said they loved God but had no use for the prophets, or loved God but found Jesus a stumbling block. This is the way God has “chosen to choose” us and then to deal with us, not directly, but mediately, through his chosen instruments. Just as he chooses us, so he chooses his own instruments to carry out what his choice holds for us. The instruments he chooses may be weak and poorly equipped for the mission, but the work is God’s, accomplished by Him through them. In the end, the Church and Christ are one thing, just as in the end Christ is to make all things one in God, “to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one.”
How God “chooses to choose” us is his business not ours; we have good reason simply to rejoice in the good news that “in Christ” God has bestowed on us “every spiritual blessing in the Heavens!” That election means eternal glory for us, if only when we hear the good news, the glad tidings of salvation, as Paul says, we believe in it and are thus sealed with God’s Spirit.