"It was not because you are the largest of all nations that
the Lord set his heart on you and chose you, for you are really
the smallest of all nations" (Deuteronomy 7:7).
God has chosen us. That is simple and clear. But for us to
accept that we are chosen or beloved is actually quite difficult,
just as it was for Israel. It demands major freedom from self.
(Only the "nobodies" seem to be ready for chosenness. Meanwhile
God has to lead most of us on long 40-year journeys before
we get to that place.)
God chooses each of usnot to "raise us up a notch,"
but to lead us through necessary and transformative journeys
so we can allow ourselves to be beloved, and to relish a mutual
relationship. At Pentecost the Spirit is poured out on "all
humankind" regardless of status.
The election of the Jews, God's "chosen people," eventually
becomes a message for the whole world, and not something to
keep them superior, satisfied or apart. It will take the prophets
Isaiah, Jeremiah and Jonah, Jesus himself, the rest of the
Book of Acts and the fierce ministry of Paul to resolve God's
universality. Because the implications of "one God who created
all things" gradually became clear, they soon called this
new religion "catholic." Our attempts to limit this election
have often made us more ethnic than catholic. Not only does
God end up looking very small and scarce, but we do too.
We are ready for the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit
only after 50 days of enjoying the wisdom of the risen Christ.
It takes a while to move from Jesus as mine to Jesus as everybody's.
Originally only Paul was strong enough to get the point, and
his ministry to the gentiles (which is most of us!) was a
scandal to James and Peter. He had to argue with Peter about
this, and God had to give Peter a vision to prove it to him.
When God makes a choice, it is definitive and irrevocable.
The biblical God does not love us if we change, but so that
we can change. God has not stopped choosing Israel any more
than God stops choosing us because we do not respond (see
Romans 11). As our Catholic tradition and recent popes have
affirmed, the Jews are still the chosen people.
God's love, it seems, is never determined by the worthiness
of the one loved, which is almost impossible for us to comprehendbecause
that is the only way we know how to love. The biblical God
seems to be both extremely patient and extremely humble. This
is good news, for where would any of us be if God's choice
depended upon our response?
Since God's choice is not determined by the worthiness or
even readiness of the chosen, the Bible speaks of God's love
as being steadfast, faithful, forever and like a rock! We
have never kept our side of the contract, and yet God always
rises to the occasion and holds up God's side. You could say
that is the very definition of what it means to be God and
what it means to be a human being in the Bible: Humanity always
fails, God always saves.
As humans, we cannot recognize, much less affirm, another
person's inherent, God-given goodness until we have rested
in that lovely place ourselves. God is inviting us first of
all to rest and rejoice in what it means to be God's beloved
son or daughter. When we have learned to live and abide in
that chosenness, only then can we communicate that same beloved
status to anybody else or any situation at any level of depth,
joy or freedom.
This is the only wedding feast there is. If we have been
there, we can proclaim a true and new alternative to the drudgery
and darkness of this world. This is healthy and happy religion,
and it is offered to us.
As we say at Mass, "How happy are those who are invited to
the wedding feast of the Lamb."
RICHARD ROHR, a Franciscan priest from Our
Lady of Guadalupe Province in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is
the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation in
Albuquerque. His newest book is
Hope Against Darkness: The Transforming Vision of Saint Francis
in an Age of Anxiety (St. Anthony
to a RealAudio excerpt of Father Richard Rohr
Great Themes of Scripture, 10-part audiocassette
series available from St. Anthony Messenger Press, A7090,
By Judith Dunlap
We are a Pentecost people. Like the first disciples, we
are gifted with the Holy Spirit so that we can share our
faith with others. This is not always easy. Many of us were
raised to believe that religion is a private matter. It
can be difficult for us to talk about God or our faith.
And yet, faith-sharing in families is crucial.
We live in a culture that in many ways no longer supports
Judeo-Christian values. More than ever, young people need
to hear and see the people most important to them talking
about and living the gospel message. If faith is going to
be real in their lives, they need to see that faith is a
reality in the lives of those closest to them.
Celebrate Pentecost this year (June 3) with your family
by reading or retelling the story from Acts 2:1-13. Talk
about how you would have felt if you were in the upper room,
and invite other family members to do the same. Discuss
the Holy Spirit in your own life. How have you experienced
the gifts of courage and understanding? When have you felt
the Spirit's fruits of joy and peace? Finally, have fun
with the symbols of fire and wind. Weather permitting, spend
the afternoon flying a kite. Decorate a windsock or put
together a wind chime. Have a special dinner with lots of
candles. Talk about why you think fire and wind are symbols
of the Holy Spirit.
Pentecost is the day the disciples were empowered by the
Holy Spirit to leave the safe closure of the upper room
and share their faith with a city of strangers. Why not
take the risk this Pentecost and share your faith with those
closest to you? Trust in the Spirit. Like those early disciples,
you may be astonished at the results.
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By Frank Frost
Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for best actress in
the title role of Erin Brockovich. But there's more
to commend the film than that. Its depiction of justice
and courage, based on a real story, is truly inspiring.
Erin is hardly a model of behavior in many ways (and her
foul language keeps this from being a movie for impressionable
children), but one of the motifs of the story is "Don't
judge by appearances."
From the beginning of the movie, nothing is going right
for Erin, a brazen, profane, stubborn former beauty queen
whose disastrous life has left her with two divorces, three
kids, no education and no job (though, heaven knows, she's
looking). Still, she expects justice to prevail when she
goes to court for damages and medical expenses after she
is broadsided by a car that runs a red light. But all she
wins is a lesson in the power of money and appearances.
She doesn't stand a chance against a defendant who is an
upstanding doctor with a good lawyer.
But that is nothing compared to what she will soon encounter.
She talks her unsuccessful small-time lawyer, Ed Masry (Albert
Finney), first into a job, and eventually into challenging
a $28 billion corporationPacific Gas & Electricwhose
toxic waste has led to cancer and every manner of health
problems for members of a community living near the power
plant. What begins as a single real-estate case mushrooms
into a multimillion class action suit, thanks to Erin's
sense of humanity and fierce belief in righteousness and
Erin's struggle is not just with an impersonal corporation.
She is also fighting herself for a sense of self-worth,
and everything she does forces her to negotiate her responsibilities
to her children. Her personal crisis comes to a head when
her live-in boyfriend, who is her children's caregiver,
delivers an ultimatum: give up her job or give up him. She
discovers new-found self-respect by choosing to persist
in her struggle against injustice.
In the end David slew Goliath. And so, Erin and Ed bring
down the giant corporation that lied to people while rendering
their water supply deadly. The monetary settlement granted
by the courts cannot erase the people's grief over disease
and death caused by the toxic water. But the truth is also
cleansing, and holding the power company accountable provides
Perhaps one of the most telling messages of this story
is that it's not just the responsibility of perfect human
beings to perform courageous moral acts. Toughened by years
of hard knocks, Erin inspires harsh judgments in others
by her appearance and language. But in the end, her idealism
as Miss Wichita years before does not seem so foolish after
all. Then she had dedicated her reign "to the end of world
hunger, and to the creation of a peaceful earth for every
man, woman and child."
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SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG
By Judy Ball
St. Thomas More (1478-1535)
Anyone who has seen the classic film, A Man for All
Seasons, is familiar with Thomas More: devoted husband
and father; prominent lawyer, theologian, writer, member
of Parliament; outstanding statesman and public servant
to the King of England; man of unshakable faith and conscience.
Called "the person of greatest virtue" ever produced in
the British Isles, Thomas More went to his death rather
than deny his religious convictions. For his life of service,
loyalty and simple goodness, he is admired. For his final
act of integrityplacing his allegiance to God before
his loyalty to King Henry VIIIhe is revered and honored
as a martyr for his faith.
After decades of devoted and distinguished service to the
king of England, More's integrity was tested to the core.
After divorcing his first wife, King Henry VIII married
again and declared himself head of the Church in England.
More resigned his post as chancellor and then refused to
swear his loyalty to legislation that made the king head
of the Church of England. For that act of conscience, Thomas
More was imprisoned in the Tower of London. In 1535 he was
convicted of treason and ultimately beheaded.
In late 2000, close to 500 years after his death, Thomas
More was officially proclaimed the patron saint of politicians.
Pope John Paul II, speaking to 1,500 politicians from 95
countries, urged them to look to Thomas More as a model
who "never compromised his conscience" and a man who "always
placed himself at the service of the person, especially
the weak and poor."
St. Thomas More's feast is celebrated on June 22. He was
canonized in 1935.
Father Daniel Coughlin
When he first arrived in Washington, D.C., in March
2000 to undertake the role of chaplain for the House of
Representatives, Father Daniel Coughlin needed a scorecard.
Elected politicians435 of them (as well as their
staffs)made up his new parish. The priest of the Archdiocese
of Chicago, never one to follow politics closely, was resourceful.
He pored over the House photo directory and prayed he would
remember Congress members' names when he encountered them
in the halls!
Fifteen months later, Father Coughlin, 65, the first Catholic
priest ever to hold the position of House chaplain, is at
home with his "parishioners." And he is impressed by what
he has seen in many instances: men and women who operate
out of a religious motivation, devoted public servants who
work hard to keep family life a priority, people who look
carefully at "the ripple effect of their judgments and decisions."
"The weightiness of their responsibilities demands prayer
for themand for them to be people of prayer," Father
Coughlin told Every Day Catholic. Each morning he
quietly prays for members by name. His public, daily official
prayer as House chaplain is more universal in scope.
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives serving in
the 21st century do not face the prospect of death, as their
patron saint did, for witnessing to their conscience. But,
Father Coughlin believes, they are called "to vote on the
basis of their conscience. The judgments they makewe
makeeach day register the values we stand for."
Politicians in particular, he says, should be "people for
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to this month's themes:
The following articles
are available in full text at AmericanCatholic.org: