6th Sunday of Easter (B); May 6, 2018
Acts 10 Ps 98 1 Jn 4:7-10 Jn 15:9-17
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison; SJB
Today’s Gospel—John Chapter 15—brings us back to the Last Supper, which contains Jesus’ final, lengthy discourses, which give us a richly textured, sustained account of Christian spirituality. There is a particular line in today’s Gospel, which goes to the heart of Christianity, when our Lord says, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you
This statement flies in the face of contemporary New Age spirituality that emphasizes our quest for God, our search for meaning, our longing for peace. Jesus, however, puts us on an utterly different course. What really counts is that God seeks us out, God pursues us up and down our lives; he hunts us down like The Hound of Heaven so boldly said by Francis Thompson. It’s not so much that we have chosen Jesus, but that we are chosen. To get that straight is to understand what Christianity is about, which means everything changes. Rather than figure out how I am going to discover God in my life, I’m going to cultivate an attitude of radical surrender. Put simply, I’m going to allow myself to be found.
Most of us, like 99.9% (we’ve got to allow the exception of our Blessed Mother!) begin our life with the attitude that ‘I am the center of my life, my life is about me, and I am in control.’ We create a scenario in which I am the architect of my life-drama, in which I direct, produce, and write the play. Egoically, I script everything in which I am the main player and I then work God into the play.
God is going to deconstruct that conceit. When I encounter the real Jesus, not my egoic fabrication, then I will slowly begin the process of surrender in which I will allow God, the great I AM, to take me places where I am not the center, where my life is not about me, and where I am not in control.
Our lives really begin to get traction when we allow God to write our story in which He calls us to play a certain part. In a very telling conversation that Jesus had with Peter after the Resurrection, our Lord said, “…when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hand, and someone else will dress you and lead you to where you do not want to go” (Jn 21:19).
That’s the shift from the Ego-centered drama to the God-centered one. Before that happens we have to go through a process of individuation, in which our projects and ambitions have priority. But, when we embark on the second half of our lives, we will allow someone else to dress us, to lead us into unknown lands just as He did with Abraham. And, that Someone is the Holy Spirit. When we make that transition, then we’re ready for a real spiritual adventure.
The readings from this week show us the consequence of making this shift from our Ego to God. What does it look like?
Being chosen by Christ is to be sent on a mission: “I have appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain” (v. 16b). I’ve called you to do something with your life in my name; I’ve called you to do something, which is to “…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). Unlike New Age spirituality, Christianity is not about self-realization. Rather, one becomes fully human by being mission-oriented, when we order our lives according to God’s purposes. The great 20th century theologian Urs von Balthasar once said, “We really don’t know who we are until we discover God’s mission for us.” In other words, we don’t really know our name, our deepest identity, until we know what God wants us to do. God has chosen us; then He sends us to promote His Mission, which is to bring salvation to the world that has been won through Jesus’ Death and Resurrection.
Once we make that shift, then we know the Mission will always be about Love because Love is what God is, which we heard in the 2nd reading from John’s First Letter: “God is love” (1 Jn 4:7). Love is not an attribute of God, but that’s what God is, which is revealed in the Trinity: the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the love that they share. That’s what God is—that’s the essence of God and we are made in the image of God, Who is Love.
Therefore, we’ve been chosen by Love for the sake of bearing Love to the world, which means to be bearers of Christ Who is Love incarnate, to be evangelists of His Good News. We do so not because we feel like doing it or that it’s convenient to do so. No, Love is not an emotion or sentiment, but Love is willing the good of the other as other. So, we willingly cooperate with Jesus’ Mission, which is uniquely tailored to our vocation and ministries. However we live out being a missionary disciple, will always take the form of love.
There is a simple litmus test whether we are living the Great Commandment: “No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13), which is, of course, how Jesus lived. So, we’ve got to find a way to give our lives away—not necessarily as a martyr does, but to see our lives as self-gifting in every dimension of our existence. Once we do, then we’re on track to be in right relationship with God.
Furthermore, being chosen by God and accepting that invitation means we become God’s friend. We cannot earn God’s friendship by doing heroic acts of virtue. Friendship always involves opening up the self to the other. We become someone’s friend when we open our heart to them and he or she does to the same to us. This is precisely what God the Father does in His beloved Son, Jesus. Jesus reveals His Sacred Heart to us; He invites us into intimacy, into an ‘I-Thou- relationship that is meant to endure forever. Therefore, Jesus can say, “I no longer call you servants, but friends” (v. 15).
How do we know that we are a friend of Jesus? The Jesuit paleontologist/theologian Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.” The whole purpose of the Christian enterprise is to make us happy, which comes about when we say “yes” to the Father’s will. When our will is congruent with that of our heavenly Father, then we will be joyful—how can we not be because we are in right relationship with God? Brothers and sisters, we are happy in the measure we become God’s friends, in the measure we are conformed to His Love, in the measure we are living out of His Mission, in the measure we allow ourselves to be chosen.
As the Easter season comes to a close, allow yourself to prayerfully reflect upon the Last Supper discourses. And, you’ll realize that it’s not you who have chosen Jesus but that Jesus has chosen you. Amen.