John 5:19-26

We hear in this gospel appointed for today the recurring reminder that we are “chosen,” chosen persons by God.  “You did not choose me, but I chose you,” we hear Jesus saying.

My own sense is that many of us are quite ambivalent about being chosen. On the one hand, most of us, by the time we’ve reached 3rd grade or so, have suffered the experience of not being chosen, of being left out, or passed over, or even rejected.  And this can set the stage early on for lots of compensations we may learn to make in life: of trying to improve our skills, or to become charming or attractive, or to endear ourselves to the perceived power brokers.  Or we may just settle for less, for being inferior and orphaned, for being undesired and undesirable.  It is very hard not to be chosen in life.

The only thing that may be harder in life than not being chosen is when we are chosen.  Sometimes being chosen is just terrific, clear and simple.  But other times, at least in my exper­ience, being chosen can create fear and trembling… either because we’ve changed our minds in the meantime – “on second thought, I don’t think I want this after all…” – or, once we get on the inside – inside a relationship, inside a vocation, inside some new experience that we very much (thought we) wanted – it looks very different from the inside than it did from the outside.  Quite humbling, often; maybe quite sobering.   How could we have set ourselves up for this?

Isn’t it fascinating, though, that we have been created with wills, with the God-given capacity to desire.  And this capacity is part of our being created in the image of God, who is full of desire, and who desires us, and who desires our very best.  And yet, we’ve not been created as robots, for God to simply align us like a formed piece coming off a conveyor belt in a foundry.  Rather, we’ve been created in the image of God with wills, with the capacity to desire.  I would say that in the Incarnation – in God’s taking on human form, human desire, a human name in Jesus – we see God stooping to us, meeting us on our own level, speaking our own language, appealing to our own desires, and ultimately leading us, like with breadcrumbs, down pathways we have freely chosen to that place where we belong: the melding of God’s choosing us and our choosing God, all of it quite freely.

Isn’t it amazing where you find yourself just now?  That is certainly true for me.  I suspect for many  of us, where we find ourselves just now has come out of a series of life choices, of roads taken and not taken, of many right decisions, which have been blessed by God, and – at least for me, maybe for you? – wrong decisions, which are being redeemed by God, and that has made all the difference.

You might find it a graceful exercise to spend some time this Lent in reflection how you’ve gotten to be where you are: the many choices that have been made for your life – choices made by you and by others – which have shaped and formed your life.  Make peace with those choosings.  See where you can find gratitude for those choosings.  And if you come up short, if you find you don’t know what to make of a choice you’re living with that doesn’t yet make sense or has not come to fruition, to pray for the grace to live into this choice as fully and freely as possible, believing that in the fullness of time, you will understand as you have been understood by God, all along: God, who chooses you, who understands your desires, and who desires your very best.

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  1. John (Jack) A, Roney on July 4, 2013 at 07:52

    You opened some things I’ve been thinking but not as clearly as you suggested. Now I have a framework to help me to see more of my journey with God. Thank , brother. Jack

  2. DLa Rue on July 3, 2013 at 05:31

    This reminds me of the quotation from the German poet, Rilke,

    “Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart
    And try to love the questions themselves.
    Do not seek the answers you would be unable to live,
    For the point is, to live everything.
    Live the questions first
    And you will live along, some distant day,
    Into the answer.”

    A minister included that in a sermon when I was 17. We could get copies of sermons at our church, then, and it’s still folded into one of my Bibles. I remember his saying at the time that “this was a hard sermon to write, I would rather not have had to write this sermon…” and my thinking it was an unusual admission to make in the midst of the sermon itself…

    I’ve often had cause to be glad he did.

  3. Melanie Zybala on March 15, 2012 at 18:53

    I’ve been reading these almost every day this week, and have found nearly all helpful.
    Again, I like the style of writing and thinking; I like the meditative quality; and especially the
    lack of sentimentality,which marred much Catholic writing when I grew up.

    Still, it’s hard to think of a God who chooses us, when we think of all the human beings
    starved, imprisoned, killed every day. If He/She chose me, why did he not
    choose these others? Do we simply feel as if we’ve been “chosen”, since we are living in
    relative comfort in a still affluent society?

  4. Fanny Erickson on March 15, 2012 at 12:43

    These thoughts are so relevant now, when the idea of choice can seem remote
    in a world that feels more than ever to be out of control.
    My sense of God’s leading has always been born out by the fruits,
    and my choice has been whether or not I followed.
    When I have followed, the results have been strong sources of joy in
    growth and development.
    When I have faltered and not “listened,” the results have been
    feelings of frustration and disconnection to the Guidance of the Holy Spirit.
    These Lenten Framework thoughts are so helpful in “remembering.”

  5. Maida on March 15, 2012 at 11:11

    Dearest Brother Curtis,

    This is such a beautifully written piece and I am very moved by it. This will be a great exercise to do, and I still think one of the best things I ever did was to walk in to the doors of the monastery for the first time, about 10 years ago. Your community has given both Bob and me such a wonderful sense of Christ in our midst, and a feeling of peace and “belonging”.

    Thank you all so much for your choosing this path, to be there for so many.

    With Love,


  6. The Rev. Dr. Catherine Gregg on March 15, 2012 at 07:52

    Thank you for your wise and graceful sharing. To trust God’s presence in all of our choosing releases faith that “all will be well” – even when our choosing turns out to create hardship and become problematic in ways that we don’t expect.

  7. Annika on March 15, 2012 at 05:53

    Thank you for this. I do live in fear and trembling of having been chosen to be in relationship with God who I yet deeply desire and I know deeply desires to be in relationship with me. This was a helpful reminder to yet be more grateful still even as I have my doubts. Thank you again.

  8. jane goldring on March 15, 2012 at 05:48

    i think we are chosen in Gods image. Each person is unique. we have to try and do the best we can with which we have so graciously been blessed with. having two sisters and three brothers in our family i can see that each one of us has been blessed with different gifts. jane

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