You were Chosen
We give thanks to God always for all of you . . . .
knowing, brothers and sisters loved by God,
how you were chosen.
For our gospel did not come to you in word alone,
but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction.
I Thessalonians 1:1–5
The words ‘common’ and ‘community’ have unexpectedly complicated etymologies. By derivation a community would be persons building together or sharing common beliefs, so that a community is in a broad sense always a political work, something done in the world by people who share a common project. As it happens the Church is a community only in a secondary sense, for it is not a human work. Speaking strictly no one ever ‘joins’ the Catholic Church; one is sent for. One of the most important turning points in the life of the Church was the vindication of Saint Augustine’s reading of Saint Paul according to which the salvation of every soul, beginning and end, is the work of God, an opinion successfully defended at the Second Council of Orange in 529, which then made its way into the decrees of the Council of Trent in 1564. Our salvation is a work done within us by the outpouring of love of God into our hearts, “not without us,” as Augustine sometimes said. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, God has “chosen us out, in Christ, before the foundations of the world, to be saints, to be blameless in His sight, for love of Him, marking us out beforehand (so His will decreed) to be His adopted children through Jesus Christ” (1:4). God has written our names in the book of life. He has marked out the path of the good life for us; “He who has begun a good work in us will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). “And again it is God who worketh within you both to will and to accomplish according to His good will” (Philippians 2:13). This does not mean that God has run rough-shod over any one’s freedom but that His grace has conformed our will to His, bringing us from slavery to sin into the freedom that belongs to his sons and daughters. If you are at the banquet, it is because you were commanded to come by the King who sent His messengers into the highways and byways and hedges to find you (Matthew 22:1–14). And if you are so blessed as to show up properly dressed, your robe white because it has been washed in the blood of the Lamb (Revelation 7:14), this will be because of gifts He has given you. And you will not have been called to any human institution but to the banquet of eternal life with Christ. Continue reading “Twenty-ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time”