What was the greatest event of your life? I recall reading about a character in a novel, a man who lost his wife and child many years before, exclaim that the greatest day of his life was when a younger woman said to him: “You ought to marry me!” And he did.
I would suspect that our greatest day has to do with relationships, be it marriage, friendship, family or church. When we hear that we have been chosen, something deep within comes alive in the awareness that we are treasured and held in esteem.
For the disciples was not the greatest event in their lives the day they heard Jesus say: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you…?” To realize that they are being offered the gift of friendship by the Son of God must have been overwhelming. And with that call came the commandment to pass that love on to others. This friendship branched out into community and a sense of solidarity. God’s gift is inclusive.
When Cornelius met Peter, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, a great event occurred. We hear about baptism and then the gift of the Holy Spirit. God is life flowing freely into the heart of Cornelius and other Gentiles. What this means is that God, in showing no partiality, makes graces available to all, everywhere. The greatest event of your life? Now — whenever God’s love is offered and received.
John’s first letter is direct. God is love, made manifest in Jesus, who was sent to expiate our sins. Here is the great event: our redemption. When someone is willing to lay down his life for others, we are at the center of the mystery of love. Nothing romantic here; rather a demanding sacrifice that withholds nothing. Jesus is the love of God made present in the flesh. Jesus is the great event.
This being chosen, offered the gift of God’s love, happens all the time.
It happened to St. Paul, then Saul, on the road to Damascus. On that journey the persecuting Saul encountered the Risen Lord. Never again would his life be the same.
It happened to Blaise Pascal, the great French intellectual and scientist, on the evening of Nov. 23, 1654, when he experienced the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob. He writes about the effects of this experience: “Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.”
It happened to John Wesley, founder of Methodism, on May 24, 1738, on Aldersgate Street in London. He writes: “I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation.”
“You ought to marry me!” Are not those Christ’s words to his bride, the church? “You ought to be my friend!” You ought to know that God is love and you are precious in his sight!”
Questions for reflection
1. What was the most important day in your life?
2. What is the meaning of friendship for you?
3. How have you been chosen?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.