Thoughts on the Gospel
for the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.”

Exodus 16:5–6


When God called Abraham there were mighty empires, the Hittites, the Egyptians, the Assyrians, but He appeared in the village of Haran to a nomadic shepherd Abraham, and from his progeny, borne by God’s grace and will, there would be formed the people Israel, setting his people free from slavery in Egypt, leading them by a circuitous route through the desert, finally bringing them to Canaan, where their city Jerusalem, city of peace, was established with its temple, dedicated to the Creator of heaven and earth, on Mount Zion. God told us our duty: to love him with all our hearts and our neighbors as ourselves.

But from the beginning they were a rebellious people, full of complaint, worshipping a golden calf even as Moses spoke to God on the Mountain, easily succumbing to the allure of strange Gods. But the God, having purposed in the beginning to create from the sons of Adam a race who would answer when He called their name (Genesis 3:9), never abandoned His plan. It was as the Evangelist John wrote later not so much that we love God but that He loved us (I John 4:10) Israel, bearing the God-given name of Abraham’s grandson Jacob, was God’s chosen people.

Even after it became clear that they would reject theMessiah Paul would write “to  them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises, to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all and blessed forever.” (Romans 9:22–24).

That might have been the end and perfection of the story, but Paul goes on to quote the prophet Hosea: “These who were not my people I will call my people, and her who was not my beloved I will call my beloved. I will say to a people not my people, ‘You are my people,’ and he shall say, ‘Thou art my God.’” And the blessed apostle Peter writes to the followers of Christ scattered across the empire: “You are a chosen race a royal priesthood , a holy nation, God’s own people” (Hosea 2:21–23). The German-derived word Church (kirsche, kirk) obscures the Greek it translates: ekklesia, a compound of ek (out as in exit) and a substantive form of kalleo̅ (to call) which is klesia, meaning invitation. Taken together the New Testament word for Church, ekklesia, used in Athens to describe those elect called out of the citizenry to participate in the counsels of state, means chosen or called out of the world into Christ and His Church.

Every Christian is chosen by his baptism, an act in which he renounces Satan and all his works and receives God’s promise that He who made heaven and earth has claimed the newly baptized for His kingdom on earth and in heaven. Being chosen and beginning well does not mean that we are home; life is a way that leads past the dragon lurking by the roadside; Paul writes that there are Jews who are the recipients of all the gifts that call them into the covenant who yet are not really Jews (Roman 9:6–8), Being chosen, again as Paul point out, is not the result of our achievement or effort, but it the will of God; it is not our place to quarrel with God’s choosings, for He says: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious and I will have mercy on him on whom I will have mercy” (Exodus 33:19). And again: God “has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction in order to make known the riches of His glory for the vessels of mercy . . . even us, whom He has called not from the Jews only but from the Gentiles” (Romans 9:22–24).

Having mercy on the sons of Adam whose choice of the Serpent’s way had condemned them to death, God chose Israel out of many nations; He chose the elect who are His Church out of all mankind. Peter and Paul, all the apostles, must have realized that their proclamation of the kingdom would touch only few of those who lived around the Mediterranean. Given the revealed fact that God wishes “all should reach repentance” (II Peter 3:9), how in every generation does God touch those outside who will not reach repentance as Christians understand it? One answer is that it is God’s inscrutable will to save something out of the chaos with which the rebellion of the angels and men have afflicted it, while others’ hearts He will harden against the truth (Romans 9:18). In a cosmos so vast as to be immeasurable there are a million stars but only one small blue planet bears the race that can answer when God calls. There are a million flowers, but only one rose. Many can capture the world in lines on paper, but there is only one Raphael; many saintly Christians but, as far as our knowledge runs, not so many saints; many nations but only one chosen people; many religions but only one through whom all men desiring to know God must come (John 14:6).

We have some small knowledge about why this must be because the Lord gave us the parable of the seeds sown generously in the field of the world, with only a few surviving and thriving unto eternal life because there are thorns; the ground is hard and rocky, and the birds of the air are waiting to snatch the seed sown (Matthew 13:1–23). Ultimately the field of the world is invested by the Devil (Matthew 13:28), who tirelessly devises ways to oppose God’s work in the world (Revelation 12:17–18). Not until the end, when justice rolls down like waters (Amos 5:24), when Satan and his angels are cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10), will that opposition end.

To be chosen, and to accept the nomination, is to check out of Satan’s prisoner of war camp, wherein so many are deceived in the belief that there is no conflict; it is to be enlisted in the battle in which there will be no end of temptations and trials, yet fed by participation in Christ and his company and encouraged unfailingly by the hope of glory in the Presence forever.    

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