Monday, May 14, 2007

Feast of St. Matthias, Apostle
Fate, Freedom and Faith

Readings: Acts 1:15-17, 20-26; Psalm 113:1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-8; John 15:9-17

Life is uncertain. And recent events have continued to confirm us in this view. At one moment, you can be happily chatting with a friend at a bus-stop and at the next moment there’s a car barreling into you, sending you sprawling on the ground and headed to the hospital. Life is unpredictable. Not even the military might, the wealth and political power of the USA could predict or prevent the loss of life and property caused by those tornadoes that struck the Mid-West most recently.

And life’s uncertainty and unpredictability leads some among us to resign ourselves to fate. Whatever will happen has already been pre-determined. It is our fate. We see something of this view even in our first reading today, when it speaks of the fate of Judas, who abandoned his apostolic calling to go to his proper place. And yet, we may well wonder if fate is truly all there is. Was it only due to fate that those National Servicemen lost their lives when a fighter jet crashed into the storeroom in which they were working? Was it only due to fate that a media celebrity was sentenced to serve a term in prison and to pay a fine for drink driving? Is it all fate?

Some more modern minds would disagree. They would prefer to think in terms of freedom. We are free to determine our own fate, to forge our own destiny. And we bear the consequences of our choices. Planes will crash if they are defective. The courts will impose sentence if people are convicted of crime.

We Christians too recognize the reality of free choice. We do believe that Judas was free to choose whether or not to betray his Master. Just as the early Christian community was free to nominate those they thought were most suitable to succeed him. As we are told in the first reading, there were about a hundred and twenty persons in the congregation, but only two were nominated, and one finally chosen. Indeed, we believe that the chosen one, Matthias, was also free to choose whether or not to accept his appointment. We too believe in free choice.

But we also believe in something far more important, something that gives meaning to our choices, that guides us and gives us confidence in the exercise of our freedom. As Jesus tells us today, you did not choose me, no, I chose you… Above all, our faith is in a God who chooses us. And this is a choice made in love, a radical love expressed most poignantly and profoundly in the image of Christ on the Cross. This is a choice made for our ultimate well-being. It is also a choice made for others and for all creation. For not only are we chosen, we are also commissioned… to go out and to bear fruit… that will last… It is only in freely responding to this prior divine choice that we live our destiny to the full, that we come to take our appointed places around the table of the Lord.

Yes, life is indeed uncertain. But, clinging in faith to the certainty of God’s choice of us in Christ, we dare freely to choose to respond daily in love.

How do you choose today?

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