God’s Chosen People
Twenty-Eighth Sunday of the Year. Fr Lawrence Lew reflects upon how God invites us to co-operate in the work of our salvation.
From Rome, the communications hub of the known-world, Paul, an educated Jew writes a letter to Timothy, a man of Jewish and Greek descent. In it he writes that Jesus, a Jew “descended from David” (2 Tim 2:8), grants salvation to “the elect”, the chosen ones (2 Tim 2:10). But St Paul’s location, and the family background of his letter’s recipient indicates that “the elect” are no longer just Jesus’ and Paul’s compatriots, fellow Jews. For now God’s chosen people includes Gentile foreigners, so that salvation is not restricted by the accidents of birth or blood, but expands to embrace all who have the essence of humanity.
We have become so accustomed to this good news that perhaps we take it for granted. Indeed, some may even object that belief in Christ as the one universal Saviour is somewhat exclusive. What about non-Christians, they ask? The peoples of St Paul’s time were certainly open to all deities and spiritualities, and they did not understand his Judeo-Christian atheism which seemed to set aside all other gods for the One God. But this wasn’t a restriction of choice, as such, but an expansion since all that is good and true in other religions and deities point to and are perfected in Jesus Christ. Indeed, before Christ, the vast multitude of humanity (who were not Jewish) were simply recipients of bad news: they had not been chosen by God, and, like lepers, were kept apart from the elect.
Christ changes all this. Because by his Incarnation, God chooses all humanity, Jew and Gentile alike. Thus one is chosen by God simply by reason of being human. Every human person from the weakest and most vulnerable to the strongest, whether one is a sinner or a saint, rich or poor, is now included among God’s chosen ones; divine election is part of the human genome. Hence, every leper Christ encounters in today’s gospel – who stand for all of humanity, fundamentally searching and wounded – is found and made whole by Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Christ’s inclusive act of healing is an act of divine re-creation. Hence Christ doesn’t even need to touch the lepers, but rather he just speaks. For just as God creates the universe by his Word, so God’s Word again causes a new creation, and he calls a new people into a new life of grace, into communion with God. Since God’s eternal and divine Word is for ever united to our humanity, so Christ “remains faithful” even if we are not “for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim 2:13). Our being chosen is thus not dependent on our fidelity or worthiness but on God’s faithful love for Man.
However, only one man returns to thank Jesus, and he is told that his faith has saved him. This reveals that salvation is a two-way process. For God’s grace has given all people the potential of being saved, but we do have to actualize that by turning to Christ in faith. So, it seems that although every human person is elect, not every one will respond positively with a saving faith in Christ and thus obtain “eternal glory” with him (2 Tim 2:10). Many can find this puzzling and wonder how a God of love can let this happen. However, it is precisely because God is Love that he doesn’t force himself on us, or do violence to our human freedom. Rather, grace leaves our human freedom intact and respects our deliberations. Thus, it is possible that some people will ultimately decide to “deny him” whereby Christ “also will deny us” (2 Tim 2:12b). That is to say, God will respect our free choices, even if goes against his deepest desire for our salvation.
But that is our deepest desire too, that all may turn to Christ in faith. So, a question also needs to be asked of ourselves, too. How can we let others remain unaware of Christ’s Gospel? St Paul certainly couldn’t. Thus he says that he will “endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 2:10). Neither could the Samaritan leper refrain from shouting out in praise of God. For the good news is that there are now no more lepers but only leapers who, through a leap of faith in Christ, can leap with joy at being saved, and who will leap up to heaven with his grace! St Timothy, though young, had received this Gospel from St Paul and leapt to preach the Gospel with him. Will you do so too, and join us Dominicans in praising, blessing, and preaching the gospel of salvation to all people?
The Dominican friars invite young Catholics, aged 18-35, to the launch of the Dominican Youth Movement in Edinburgh on 2–3 November 2013. The event is free, accommodation and meals are provided, and there will be talks on the Psalms by fr. Timothy Radcliffe and fr. Richard Ounsworth; opportunities for networking with Catholic youth from across the country; prayer and adoration; and ‘Nightfever’ street evangelisation.
Booking is essential. To book or find out more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.