HOMILY – FEAST OF ST MATTHIAS
Chosen to Love
(Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Ps 113; Jn 15:6-17)
Two words almost leap out at us in today’s readings: “chosen” and “love.” Putting them together, we get the message from this feast day of St. Matthias that we are Chosen to Love.
In the first reading, the apostles feel the necessity to choose someone to replace Judas who has been with them from the beginning and who could witness to the reality of the resurrection in the life of the early Christian community.
The fact that Matthias is chosen by lot could be seen as accidental or luck, but there is more to this decision than that. In Ephesians 1:4, we are told God has “chosen us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before God in love.” Surely, then, Matthias was chosen by God for this role even before he was born.
This insight has great repercussions for those involved in the pro-life movement, and especially the March for Life that is held every spring in this country. Every child conceived in their mother’s womb has been chosen by God to be born into this world, to live a full life and to contribute to the world and the kingdom of God in his or her own unique way.
Abortion, then, is not simply a matter of ridding the body of unwanted tissue – it is actually a rebellion against the plan of our Creator for each little child whose life is snuffed out by that terrible act. Again, I do not want to judge anyone who has obtained an abortion. At the pro-life rally before the march in Edmonton, one speaker pointed out that most women who have had an abortion would say they had no choice – they were forced into this either by others, shame, desperation, pressure, stress, etc. How ironic that those who favor abortion call it pro-choice. The fetus is a child, not a choice.
In the Gospel, Jesus points out he has chosen us, not we who have chosen him. This is starkly different from other world religions whose adherents are striving to access, contact, experience, find God as they understand God. God in Jesus comes to us, longs for an intimate covenant relationship with us, draws us to God’s self.
Jesus goes on to remind us our call is all about love. The Father loves Jesus, and Jesus loves the Father back in an eternal dynamic exchange of love. We are to love others as Jesus has loved us, and that has many ramifications. A first is that to truly love others as Jesus has loved us, we need to abide in his love as he abides in the Father’s love. That is accomplished best, I believe, through time wasted in contemplative prayer – just being in the presence of the Lord like Mary of Bethany, not really trying to think or do anything, but rather just aware we are in the presence of the Word and soaking up the love of the Father and Jesus like John resting his head on Jesus’ breast at the Last Supper.
Then Jesus touches on the different ways we can love. A first is to be willing to sacrifice our time, talent and treasure to serve our brothers and sisters in any way we can. We are to give our lives away, as Jesus lay down his life for us. A young mother touched my heart after the Eucharist one Sunday as she shared her concern for another young woman who had gotten lost in the New Age movement, was desperately poor, trying to recover from cocaine addiction, and struggling with her mental health under great stress to the point of wanting to end it all. She is a breath away from being a street person. This young mother is being a friend to her and trying to find a place for her to live. She was laying down her life for this poor struggling woman.
Jesus then invites us to live lives of greater trust and vulnerability with those with whom we live. He has shared with us everything he had heard from his Father in total transparency and trust. We can respond by being more trusting, open and vulnerable with others as a way of building community and experiencing some intimacy in our lives. The late Jean Vanier put it best: “When we are humble, open and honest enough to share our weakness with our brothers and sisters, that frees them to be humble, open and honest enough to share their weakness with us, and together we grow.” That happens a lot in support group meetings in church basements – would that it would become more a part of the life of the church gathered above.
The result of believing in Jesus, trusting him and living his teachings will be the experience of joy in our lives. How true it is that we can’t really make ourselves happy or give ourselves joy. The best way to experience happiness is to make someone else happy, and the best way to experience joy in our lives is to help someone else experience joy. One cannot put a price on that gift of joy – it is free and abundant, but only to those who live lives of love. As one poster put it, “Those who have finally learned to love find themselves absurdly happy, totally involved, tragically vulnerable, and always in trouble.”
The Eucharist is meant to be a joyful celebration of the selfless love of Christ for us made present through Word and Sacrament. May it empower us to love others as Jesus has loved us, in response to being chosen by him, to love.