Football (soccer) was one of the sporting activities that I enjoyed so much while growing up. Then we had a formula for the selection of those who would play in a given friendly encounter. At first, two persons will emerge as would-be captains and one would say: “I challenge you take one post (that is goal post)?” The opponent would make a choice of the goal post he prefers by saying: “I take this!” while his mate would in turn take the remaining goal post. Now the “challenger” would proceed to make the first choice of a player and his interlocutor follows. This will continue until the sides are filled. What is very significant in the round of choice-making is that the captains would attempt to choose those whom they believed would help the team to attain victory. Normally good players are chosen first before the less competent ones. It is always very exciting to be among those to be chosen because some people are never chosen in spite of them being present.
A closer look at the description above indicates the prevalence of choice –making before the game of football commences. Even on the professional platform of the game, choices are made by the coach to determine who plays where. Now choices are made because they are seen as having the potentials of producing great results. Hence, choices are not ends in themselves but productive means to certain ends. Life generally is characterized by choices. And the choices we make today determine our expectations. If we take a look around the Church we could see how many are beautifully dressed. This is the product of choice. If anyone is badly dressed sorry it is also the product of choice whether directly or indirectly made.
Today, most preachers may be facing some difficulties with the three Readings as they seem to have multiplicity of themes and sub-themes in themselves. Our approach here is to proceed from the Second Reading (1 Pet.2:2-10) and particularly from the two last verses. The attention here is focused on divine choice-making. God chooses us not the other way round (John 15:16). In his First Letter, St. Peter clearly declared:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Pet.2:9-10).
From the above words of St. Peter we understand that what we are, is entirely based on God’s choice of us. He called us out of darkness into his marvellous light. We were nothing before, but his choice of us made us something.
Often there is this general misconception among many that God’s choice of us presupposes absence of suffering and cross. It is upon this assumption that prosperity gospel has become rife among many preachers. Only very few are conscious and reflective of the fact that the Christian life is a journey that is not always rosy. Even our redemption was not a jolly ride; there was suffering, bloodletting and death but there was also resurrection to life. Today in the First Reading (Acts 6:1-7) we are presented with the choice of seven men (deacons) who were commissioned to assist the apostles in their administration of the rising number of Christians. Among them was Stephen who ended up as the first Christian Martyr. To be called and chosen by God for any mission is not a gateway to endless merriment. There is need for us to bear in mind that challenges are part of the Christian vocation. But we are assured in the words of St. Paul that the suffering of this moment cannot be compared to the great things God has prepared for those who love him.
The right frame of mind for all us who have been called and chosen by God is to be focused on THE WAY, THE TRUTH and THE LIFE. The problem in our day and age is that many people have their various WAYS, their patches of TRUTHS and innumerable walks of LIFE. Often these are contradictory to God’s divine prerequisites. WAY as used here should be not confused to ROAD which is a physical route from one point to another. Above a physical route, it means a valuable orientation or direction. When our Lord said that he is the way, he is actually telling us that he is the one and only ORIENTATION and DIRECTION we need for anything we intend to do. Without this orientation and direction we are completely lost. No wonder he made it clear in the gospel of John (15:5) where he said: “Cut off from him we can do nothing”. Many people are lost today on account of the various orientations and directions they have chosen in life that are contrary to God’s WAY. (Is. 55:8).
During the questioning of Jesus Christ by Pilate (John 18:37-38), our Lord said he came to bear witness to the truth and all who belong to the truth listens to him. On hearing this Pilate asked him “what is the truth?” And he never gave him an answer. Some people had said that our Lord did not answer Pilate because he (Pilate) was already talking with the TRUTH (Jesus Christ); the answer was in the question. It is even ordinarily difficult to define truth as a word. Most Philosophers would say that truth is relative; that means what is truth for some group of people may not be the same for other people. Furthermore we discover that in our society the pressure from our fast growing technological world has made some things to become globally accepted truths. For instance marriage which we know is the union of a man and a woman is now gradually being redefined to accommodate union between people of same-sex; this is one out of many distortions.
Some attentive minds may at this point be wondering what the truth is all about! The truth can only found in God where it is complete. It tells us that we are created by God (Eph.2:10), we belong to Him (Psalm 100:3), and He loves us (Romans 8:37-39) and would want us to be finally and eternally with Him hereafter (John 14:3).
Life is generally precious but many people live their lives in different ways as if it is entirely their own creation and franchise. For some people life has only to do with the satisfaction of bodily desires, for others it has to do with how much is being accumulated materially. The truth as we have seen earlier is that we belong to God; including our lives. Now when Jesus said he is the life he was referring not to this perishable life but life eternal (John 10:10). To be alive without God at the centre of our lives we make the harvest of meaninglessness; in fact, life without God amounts to mortality of the soul.
It is totally a great privilege for us to be called and chosen by God. This divine choice is not accidental it is for a purpose (Psalm 57:2). Because we are made in God’s image and likeness (Gen 1:27) we are invariably called to walk in God’s WAY, TRUTH and LIFE. The resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ reminds us of this WAY, TRUTH and LIFE without which there will emptiness, fear, trouble and lack in our lives. Our Lord thus tells his disciples today not to allow their hearts to be troubled but to have trust in him and God the father. Often when the wind of life begins to blow in some negative ways, we tend to lose it, we tend to dissipate, and we tend to hand over power to fear instead of to faith in God. All these happen to us because we lose sight of the WAY, TRUTH and LIFE.
May we march into the new week with untroubled hearts and armed with the conviction that we have been called and chosen by God and He will not let us down much as we focus on the WAY, the TRUTH and the LIFE. Have a blissful Sunday and a blessed week ahead.