The following is a reflection I gave to my Jesuit community on 6 September 2011.
Readings: Colossians 2:6-15; Luke 6:12-19
I was struck the other day when we were reminded that it was not we who chose to be here. We did not choose to live with one another or even pray with one another. When I thought about that I was moved by the idea that it was indeed providence that brought all 27 of us together in this house. God selected each of us to end up here at this point in our formation. The thought consoles me even amidst the potential anxieties of community—there is a reason we’re here.
Today’s readings are all about being chosen by God. In the Gospel Jesus chooses the Twelve but first he goes up to a mountain to pray. He spent an entire night in prayer. And when day came he did not seek sleep. Instead, he called his disciples to him to share what he had discerned that night. He selected the Twelve who would serve in very special ministry along side him. It was Jesus’ very act of praying that sanctified his selection of the apostles. One could say he made solemn appointments, or that the apostles were “ordained with prayer”. I have no doubt that whenever and however we were called to Jesuit life that the decision to choose each one of us was the result of exchange between the Father and the Son. That’s no small thing. I encourage you to prayerfully put on the mind of God. In the same way you might ask yourself how God gazes at you, or how you might listen to the Trinity talk about sending the Second Person to earth, consider what the exchange was like as the Father and Son decided on choosing you for this life.
Just like us the apostles did not see themselves worthy of such a solemn appointment, yet Jesus chose them, even Judas who—as the Gospel says today—“became a traitor”. Judas could not even escape Jesus’ love! I wonder what in Jesus’ prayer on the mountain that night led him to choose Judas… I think at times we can feel like a Judas, betraying Jesus in some way or another, hurting our friendship. But what kind of friend, despite our betrayals and hurtful attacks, still chooses us? It’s not an ordinary friendship. It’s a divine one. Our reconciliation with Jesus is truly sanctified and our friendship with him is bound together with prayer. It’s no mistake that in Ignatian spirituality our friendship with Jesus is fostered and cultivated through prayer. Jesus lived that kind of prayer-relationship with the Father as we witnessed in the Gospel story today.
I’m not sure if you’ve seen the movie The Adjustment Bureau which is about a group of men who keep things in the world running the way they’re supposed to. They take orders from “The Chairman” who has some mysterious plan for our lives. If we start to stray from that plan the Adjustment Bureau comes in, makes small adjustments in our reasoning, and things go back to the way they’re supposed to be. Not much free will. (But it’s a good movie!) But the movie’s theology aside, we do believe God has some hope for our lives, that “being chosen” is often beyond our direct control, that divine providence brought us here. I discovered that the Spanish title for the film is “Los Agentes del Destino”—The Agents of Destiny. I like that title because it makes me think about my own destiny. What are the agents of my destiny? What propels the plan for my life? For the first apostles to be called it took Jesus’ prayer to the Father, his own discernment. It took the relationship between Jesus and his disciples. Then the disciples had to discern themselves in order to say yes fully. All these were agents of their destiny: Prayer and relationship. You can’t have one without the other. They work together as we work with God to live our lives according to God’s will.
The ways in which God chooses us are diverse, but the motivation behind being chosen is ultimately the same: closeness to Christ. In addition to prayer, the sacraments draw us close to Christ in a special way. No sacrament is apart from him.
In Colossians today Paul says, “You were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith …” We are chosen by Christ every time we celebrate the sacraments. Paul continues, “And even when you were dead in transgressions … he brought you to life along with him”. The Lord never stops choosing us to be close to him, despite our sinfulness. We’re chosen for him and we’re chosen for one another. As we approach the sacrament of the Eucharist today, we keep in mind that even in and through the sacrament we are solemnly chosen by Jesus for mission, our destiny. And as we receive the Body of Christ we might meditate on Paul’s words: “As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in him, rooted in him and built upon him and established in the faith as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”