Friday, 15 May 2009

You did not choose me, no, I chose you

John 15: 16

You know how it is when you notice a word or a phrase, and all of a sudden it's cropping up all over the place? "Good (or bad) things come in threes" we sometimes hear. Well lately I've been pondering that scripture quotation from the Last Supper, in which Jesus tells the apostles, 'You did not choose me, no, I chose you.' Then I heard the passage last night at a prayer group at Birmingham Uni chaplaincy, in preparation for this Sunday's Gospel. And today it is the Gospel as well. So I think I'm supposed to take note...

The apostles have been with the Lord for three years now, and they're getting to be Old Hands at the work of the Kingdom of Heaven, to the point where they think all the graces are coming from their own steam. They're coasting, we might say. At the same time, they are still insecure and afraid. Afraid to lose their reputation (earlier in John 13 Peter refuses to have his feet washed), afraid of storms, crises with the crowds (as in the feeding of the 5,000) lacking faith in God to work miracles (as with the demoniac), unable to believe Jesus' prophecy about his own death and resurrection. Jesus' words to them at the Last Supper are a reminder of the beginning of it all - they were just doing ordinary things, fishing, collecting taxes, making a living, when into their lives walked a Man who called them to something greater: 'Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.' These men did not reinvent themselves - Christ refashioned them according to his plan, and turned their weakness into strength. Their vocation is pure gift, as I have heard many priests say.

I think it's that time of year here in the seminary - when things are winding down, when exams are on the doorstep - when it is easy to coast, to presume we are working in our own power, yet for that reason anxious about all that we have to do. And it's easy to get discouraged when our personal hopes and plans don't turn out exactly as we had envisaged. Jesus' words 'You have not chosen me, no, I have chosen you,' remind me that my path of discernment, which has brought me to this point, only started because I felt the Lord was calling me to something else. It certainly wasn't my idea! As Archbishop Dolan of New York said (in his book Priests of the Third Millenium), each of us want to be priests primarily because that's what we think God wants. I think I can only appreciate my discernment here if I hold onto that fact. I myself am not worthy to be here, to do this. But God nevertheless calls me out of gratuitous love to follow him in this way. Glory be to Him. Deo Gratias!

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