By Father James Rodriguez
Three years before my ordination, the third prequel in the Star Wars movie franchise was released. Towards the end, there is a climactic fight sequence between the mentor, Obi-Wan, and his dark-side-leaning student Anakin, destined to become the ominous Darth Vader.
The master, still trying to appeal to whatever good remains in his pupil yells out to him, “You were the chosen one!” This proves to be too little too late, and the rest is movie history. In today’s readings, written a long time ago in a galaxy not at all far away, the theme of being chosen resounds. It’s something we all want to feel — the prestige of being special — but what if we are chosen and don’t know it? Worse, what if we do and it is not enough? As with young Vader, being chosen means nothing if you abuse the power it entails, or ignore it altogether.
Amos is a man chosen by God. The reading opens with words of chastisement from the corrupt priest Amaziah — also chosen, but unfaithful — ministering in the house of God. Amos was a threat to the serenity of the kingdom, as truth-tellers always are in the midst of depravity, but the courage required by his call was not his own. He knew that he simply “was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores,” but a man chosen nonetheless. His humility in the face of the prophet’s vocation is what gave him the strength to speak the truth.
He was not proclaiming himself but, in a veiled way, what St. Paul would later call “Christ crucified.” As with every prophetic person in scripture, most notably our Blessed Mother, there is a call from God and a response by man. No one is forced, but in humility, they recognize the voice of the One calling and respond with generosity and praise.
Today’s psalm and second reading are both songs of grateful praise to God for the graces He has given: “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” The psalm promises that “the Lord will give his benefits” as St. Paul writes exuberantly to the Ephesians, reminding them that God chose us in Christ “so that we might exist for the praise of his glory.” What greater dignity could there be? God, creator of heaven and earth, compared to whom we are nothing at all, thinks of you with love at every moment of your existence, even when you feel completely alone or ashamed.
You are still chosen. You are worthwhile. You may not be aware of it, or you may be wondering what specific purpose God has for you. You might even believe that you have squandered it by your sinfulness, but (spoiler alert) even Darth Vader had some good in him. Now is not too late.
The Gospel passage presented for our reflection this weekend is a special one to me and my classmate Fr. Patrick Longalong, since it was the Gospel we chose for our ordination Mass thirteen years ago. There were only two of us ordained here in Brooklyn that year, and like the Apostles, we were sent on mission as a pair. It is an amazing life that we priests are called to.
Like the apostles and the prophets before them we are chosen, painfully aware of our weakness and unworthiness. We know that were it not for His grace, we would be nothing at all, yet still, He dispenses it abundantly. He loves His chosen ones — all the baptized — and chooses from among them men like me. This divine choosing carries with it great power — “he gave them authority over unclean spirits” — that persists to this day in every exorcism and confession.
The simplicity He instructs them to observe is a reminder that all that we have and are is from Him, and all that we need is already granted in the Father’s providence. He is all beauty, truth, and goodness, and in His utter love chooses to share these treasures with us, flowing from the greatest treasure of all: His very Self in the Most Blessed Sacrament. It is the Eucharist that makes us who we are and inspires what we do.
May we live our lives in adoration of the One who chose us.
Readings for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ephesians: 1:3-14 or 1:3-10
Father James Rodriguez is pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church in Rockaway Beach.