Ordinary Time 23, Year C-2010

From Vincentian Encyclopedia
I have summoned you by name; you are mine (Is. 43:1—NIV)

The Lord takes the initiative. He invites and he chooses. He reserves to himself, too, the right to award positions of honor. Thus we find Jesus in Jn. 15:16 telling his disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”

While it is, no doubt, an honor to be chosen by the Lord, it does not give the one so honored the right to consider himself superior to others or to feel that God loves him more than God loves other people. After all, those whom God calls come from the ranks of the foolish, the weak, the lowly and despised, those counting for nothing (1 Cor. 1:27-28). Moreover, those chosen by God are the same to him as those not chosen—Israelites are like the Ethiopians to God and he shows as much favor to the Israelites as to the Philistines and the Arameans (Am. 9:7).

Much less does being chosen mean some kind of waiver for the one chosen. We readily assume perhaps that special ties will spare us from having to go thoroughly through all the steps of a difficult process from which those without special ties are not exempted. But it is clear in Am. 3:2 that chosenness implies greater accountability [1]. And we are familiar with the saying: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Lk. 12:48).

Much more is demanded from those who are chosen by the Lord and given positions of honor and also, paradoxically, from the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, who all are unable to repay the truly generous divine host. The point is that the absolute gratuity of God’s choice calls for a full-hearted response on the part of the chosen [2].

The responsibility that results from being chosen by the Lord admits of neither temporizing nor exemption from hardships (Lk. 9:57-62). Discipleship is an extremely demanding responsibility: one cannot be a follower of Jesus without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life; one has to carry his own cross and follow Jesus. A follower of Jesus is a true follower only if he makes Jesus his top priority. A true disciple allows no one, not even himself, and nothing to stand in the way of his following Jesus and learning from him. A disciple “learns Jesus” as he walks Jesus’ path [3].

Put unequivocally on notice about the cost of discipleship, the disciple is advised to sit down first and reflect on what it will take to finish what has been started. And the colossal project of following Jesus will take all that the disciple is and has got, so that, in his pursuit of the project, the disciple will, in the end, give up everything. Fortunately, however, the disciple is assured of not turning into a laughingstock, even in his lack of necessary resources, just so long as he makes peace with the more—nay, all—powerful king whose power, paradoxically, is made perfect in weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Worldly wisdom surely finds scandalous, wholly illogical and beyond human grasp both the notion of power consisting in powerlessness and that of hating immediate relatives, and even oneself—as scandalous, illogical and beyond human grasp as the idea of a slave being a brother. But isn’t this part of God’s transcendent and elusive counsel and intention? And surely this is proven true and wise in the Vincentian martyrs, whose memory we recently honored, namely, Blessed Ghebremikael, and Blesseds Louis-Joseph François, Jean-Henri Gruyer, Pierre René Rogue, Jean-Charles Caron and Nicolas Colin.

These witnesses to genuine truth and wisdom challenge us to accept the invitation, the summons, the choice, addressed to us by Christ Jesus—who did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest but was called or chosen by God (Heb. 5:5)—to partake of his supper. To answer “yes” to the divine host is to affirm as well that we are no longer our own (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19) and to acknowledge, with St. Vincent de Paul, that we belong to Jesus and the poor to whom he announced the good news and who are now also our lot and portion [4].


Endnotes:

[1] Cf. Joseph Telushkin, Biblical Literacy (New York, NY: William Morrow and Co., Inc., 1997) 319-320.
[2] Cf. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1990) 43:145.
[3] Cf. “Pure Discipleship,” http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Luke/Pure-Discipleship (accessed September 2, 2010).
[4] Cf. his May 17, 1658 conference to the missionaries.