Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Bishop Barron - Why God Chose You

Bishop Barron - Why God Chose You

Bishop Barron - Why God Chose You

Peace be with you. Friends, one of the most distinctive and frankly scandalous qualities of ancient Israelite religion is the insistence that Israel is the specially chosen people of God. And the thing is, it's simply impossible to avoid this theme; it's everywhere in the Bible. Of all the nations in the world, God has singled out Israel as his specially chosen people. Of all the mountains in the world, God has chosen Mount Zion. Of all the holy places scattered around the world, indeed scattered around the Holy Land, he has chosen the temple in Jerusalem as his special and unique dwelling place. In fact, broaden this theme out: the God of the Bible, like it or not, is a choosing and electing God. So, for example, God chooses Israel among all the other nations. He chooses Abel, not Cain; he chooses Jacob, not Esau; he chooses David, not Saul; etc.

Again, this is not a minor, isolated idea; it's up and down the Bible. Well, here's the thing: especially today in the early twenty-first century, we find this sort of language really objectionable. Talk about exclusive. It's God doing the choosing, mind you: God chooses one over the other; some are special, some are not. Our value today seems to be everyone's special, everyone's chosen. And about the worst thing you could say about a human being is that he or she is being discriminatory, that they're making judgments, they're preferring this one over that one. But yet God clearly operates this way throughout the Bible. Well, the tension now is not just one from the twenty-first century; in a way, you can sense it in the Bible itself. So I'm not going to unsay what I just said, this theme is everywhere, but we have to find something really interesting. The Bible has a balancing and complementing perspective that runs all the way from beginning to the end.

And I want to begin by looking at our first reading for this weekend, which is from the book of the prophet Isaiah, because Isaiah is one of the great places to see this tension and the way the Bible resolves it. So let's look at Isaiah. Clearly, a son of Israel; the prophet Isaiah of course would hold that Israel is the specially chosen people, of course has great reverence for Jerusalem and for the temple, of course would say Mount Zion is God's special dwelling place. He loves the Sabbath day, and he loves the covenants and the holy mountain; all of that is undeniably true of Isaiah. But yet, and now here's our reading for today, he'll make this extraordinary move. He says that foreigners, so non-Jews, listen now, I'm quoting, can "join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants".

Wow. I thought Israel was the specially chosen? I thought Israel alone were the servants of the Lord? But here non-Jews can minister to the Lord, become his servants. Now, how? Precisely by being drawn toward all of those peculiar and unique institutions of Israel, precisely by being drawn to and by the Holy people, Israel. Another quote from our reading for today: "them," meaning foreigners, "I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer". So God's house of prayer? Uh-huh. On God's holy mountain? Yeah. In his uniquely chosen temple, among his uniquely chosen people? Yes. But, but, foreigners, foreigners, I will bring to my mountain and make joyful in this distinctive house of prayer. And of course, all of this echoes one of my favorite passages from the second chapter of Isaiah. So go back a little bit earlier. Here's what we find: "In days to come, the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established as the highest mountain".

Okay, that sounds familiar, Mount Zion, the Lord's house, it's the highest, it's the specially chosen, God uniquely dwells there. Yeah. But listen: it "shall be…raised above the hills". And: "All nations shall stream toward it. Many peoples shall come and say: 'Come, let us go up to the Lord's mountain.'" Look it up today, Isaiah chapter two, you'll find that. Beautiful, lyrical. And see, it's solving the dilemma that I put my finger on. Yes, Israel is chosen, but chosen not for themselves, but chosen for the sake of the world. Mount Zion, yes, the highest of the mountains, so that all the nations might be attracted to it and stream up to it. Jerusalem, yes, God's holy city, that all people might come and inhabit. Israel is indeed chosen, but not for itself, but for the world. Look at this theme in the Bible everybody. When Israel begins to rest in itself, rest on its laurels, claim its unique privileges and prerogatives, it misses its point. Israel's identity is a missionary identity: Israel for the world.

Now, under this rubric, I think, we can also understand a good deal of the New Testament and a good deal of the life and work of Jesus. Was Jesus an Israelite? You bet; son of Israel. Temple, prophecy, covenant, Mount Zion. Did he believe that Israel was a specially chosen people? Absolutely. Choosing his twelve Apostles to evoke the twelve tribes of Israel, trying to gather the tribes together in great unity. How about the beautiful prophecy that Jesus would be the glory of his people Israel. That's right; he's an Israelite, with all that that entails. But was he at the same time emphatically for the world? Yes. His ultimate purpose now, precisely as the fulfillment of the chosen people, was to become a beacon for all the nations. I always go back to that magnificent, strange scene: the Crucifixion of Jesus.

There he is writhing on this terrible instrument of torture, and over the cross, on the cross, is the sign composed by Pontius Pilate, in the three languages of that time in place, in Hebrew, Latin and Greek: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. King of the Jews, yes. King of Israel, the new David, King of his chosen people, yes. But it's not just written in Hebrew; it's written in Greek and Latin too, because that message is now meant to go out to all the world. St. Paul understood it, didn't he, in his bones? That's why he said over and again in his preaching, his writing: Iesous Kyrios. There's a new Lord. King of Israel, yes, summing up the qualities of the chosen people. But King for the world. Israel chosen not for itself, but precisely for the sake of mission.

Now, all this brings me to us. Because you might say, "Okay, Bishop, I get it. It makes sense of the mission of ancient Israel and how that's summed up in Jesus. But what about me"? Listen: it's got everything to do with you; it's got everything to do with me. Now, I imagine, not everybody but probably most people listening to me right now are baptized. Do you ever ask yourself the question: How come I was baptized? And you say, "Oh, well, dumb chance, dumb luck. I was born into a Christian family, and my parents brought me as a little baby, and I had nothing to do with it. Just kind of a happy accident or just a dumb chance". Look. In a universe governed by God's providence, there is no such thing as dumb luck or dumb coincidence. John Paul II said that. There's no coincidence. Everything's ingredient in God's providence. Here's the question to ask: Why in God's providence was I given this special privilege of being baptized?

Now, let's say it took place, in most of your cases, when you were a baby. You had nothing to do with it; it wasn't your choice. It was a privilege. Were you specially chosen? Uh-huh. Singled out? Yeah, you bet. But not for your sake, but for the sake of the world. Why were you baptized? That you might become a missionary your whole life long. That you, specially chosen, might become the vehicle by which God would draw more and more people to himself; that you'd be like Mount Zion, the true pole of the earth; you'd be like the holy temple; and to you, many others will stream to the Lord. That's why you were baptized. For many years, most of you know, I was a seminary professor. And then for my last three years at Mundelein Seminary, I was the rector. I was in charge of the seminary.

So I'm very interested in this question of discerning vocation. All of these young guys at Mundelein were sensing that God had chosen them. God had singled them out, called them to the priesthood. Special privilege? Yeah; he didn't call everybody to the priesthood. In fact, very few he calls. What's the danger? The danger is, this can slide very easily into what we rightly call clericalism. That means: "Hey, I was chosen because I'm great. I was chosen so I might have privileges and prerogatives. I was chosen because God must think I'm better than other people".

That's clericalism, everybody. What I preached all the time at Mundelein was exactly this point. Yes, God has specially singled you out. Yes, God is calling you, he's choosing you. But God never chooses Israel for itself; he chooses Israel for the world. So all the baptized listen to me, maybe those listening right now who are feeling or discerning a call to the priesthood, maybe those already in Holy Orders, the principle applies to every one of us. We have a choosing God, an electing God. But don't play the game of contemporary culture that God is being arbitrary and exclusive. That's not what it means. No, no. The choosing and electing God has chosen you, for the sake of the world. And God bless you.
Are you Human?:*