May 14, 2022
by Edward Morse
Creighton University's School of Law
click here for photo and information about the writer

Feast of Saint Matthias, Apostle
Lectionary: 564

Acts 1:15-17, 20-26
Psalms 113: 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8
John 15:9-17

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Today’s readings reflect an important truth:  we are chosen by God and directed to love one another.  This sounds simple, and it is.  But difficulties are found in the execution.    

The first reading reflects plainspoken words by St. Peter to other followers of Jesus about the matter of replacing Judas after his death.  Peter draws upon prophetic words in the Psalms to support the process of replacement, and he sets out the qualifications for consideration by his brethren.  Oddly enough, they chose two men who had been with Jesus during his entire ministry, but the ultimate decision was made by lot, rather than reason.  This approach to choosing does not accord with our modern sensibilities about discernment, but it was an effective way to decide the matter.  And I note that no one asked for a “do-over”, as we are prone to do when things don’t go our way.   

Today’s psalm continues this theme of choosing, including a passage that reflects counterintuitive decisions that often accompany Providence at work.  We may prefer the learned, the attractive, and the polished intellectuals, but God has another idea:  raising up the lowly from the dust and even from the dunghill.  Ignoble beginnings are no constraint in God’s eyes.  In the divine economy, difficulties may provide a better training ground than the ivy-covered halls of elite repose.  God has a way of drawing from the common experiences of humanity in His plans for moving the world forward.

Today’s gospel reflects the concept of choosing in a discourse of Jesus with his disciples, which also extends to our own lives as well.  He chose us; we do not choose Him.  But at the same time, we demonstrate our choice to follow Him by keeping His commandments, which include the new commandment of loving one another.  The bar is high:  we are to love as Jesus loved us.  Such love is given more than received; measured out generously and perhaps distributed without measuring at all. 

When faced with the prospect of keeping God’s commandments and loving with this kind of sacrificial love, I sometimes find myself lost in despair.  I am willing to give this a good college try, but my efforts result in regular failures followed by frequent prayers for mercy and forgiveness.  I find myself surrounded by temptations and by those who are difficult to love, which produce predictable responses that include unkind thoughts, unkind words, and sometimes even unkind deeds instead of sacrificial love.

When we dwell upon our failures, love and mercy can seem far from us. But we must remember that our Lord still appeared to his disciples after all of them had failed him and abandoned him at the time he needed them the most. His words reassured them: “Peace be with you.”  He did not rebuke them or chide them.  He called them to himself and to faith, promising to be with them even until the end of the age.  He helped them through their fears and needs that sometimes produced their failures.  He did not give up on them.  He never stopped loving them, even when they may have stopped loving him by choosing their own path for a time.   

Lord, help us to come to your seat of mercy and to seek out your forgiveness when we fail to love others and when we fail to love you through keeping your commandments.  Remind us of your choosing and your persistent love, which draws us always back to you.  Grant us the mercy and forgiveness we need, so that it overflows from our hearts to share with others who need it, too.  Thanks be to God. 

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