Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It Was I Who Chose You

Today is the Feast of Saint Matthias, the one who took the place of Judas Iscariot. He was chosen to take the place of Apostle during the time between the Ascension of our Lord into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Peter indicated the qualifications for candidacy for this position- someone who had been an active disciple of Jesus in His company since His baptism by John, and someone who could give witness to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

After the disciples proposed the two candidate, Joseph/ Barsabbas and Matthias, the disciples prayed to God that He would make known whom He had already chosen. Then they drew lots. Drawing lots is like casting dice or drawing straws- something that looks like chance. But in the mind of the ancient Church, it really was not chance. Everything that exists, exists because God has made it. Everything that is, is because God holds it in being. Without God holding something in being, it simply would cease to be. So, everything that is, is able to be because God is permitting it. God does not have to directly will it to be such a way, but He permits it to be.

We could look at human freedom and the reality of sin. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We have the capacity to love, to be faithful, to conform ourselves to what God has made us to be. But in order to love, our love must be freely given. Therefore, God has permitted us to sin. The Lord does not will us to, He does not want us to sin, He does not make us sin. But the Lord does permit us to operate according to our nature, and so we can freely love or freely withhold our love.

In any event, since God at least permits all things to be as they are, one can learn about God by observing things. Thus the disciples cast lots, but first asked God to use those lots as a means of indicating His will. Then they prayed, "You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place" (Acts 1:24-25). This passage brings to mind what Jesus said to the disciples - it was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (John 15:16).

We do not use the casting of lots to choose pastors anymore, probably because our concept of chance and random has changed (that is a subject for another time). But when we reflect on this passage from Acts, we really ought to understand that each and every one of us has also been chosen by God. This choice was not just within the last few years, or even at our birth. Paul reminds us in Ephesians that God chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish (Ephesians 1:4). Think of that! God chose you and me before He created one thing, just for the purpose of being like Him. We do not need to draw lots to figure that out. Of course, how we live that call to holiness is part of our personal vocation from God, and for that we need the Lord’s help (and others’ too) in discernment.

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