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18 Sunday in Ordinary Time year B 2021

  1. As many of you know,

  2. I have many connections to Germany.

  3. I am not German,

  4. though I speak the language

  5. have lived there.

  6. And, at least before Covid,

  7. I hosted friends here,

  8. and traveled there.

  9. Germans are just like us.

  10. They live in a modern, western - style country,

  11. with a government that works

  12. and an economy that is strong.

  13. But every so often I have experiences with Germans

  14. that remind me that,

  15. we live in different worlds.

  16. For example,

  17. take Germans

  18. to an American supermarket

  19. or “big box” superstore.

  20. And you will find them

  21. poring over the household appliances,

  22. talking excitedly about things

  23. like pot scrubbers and other items

  24. we could by in any Bed Bath and Beyond or Target.

  25. It is not that they don't have choices.

  26. It is the range of choices we have that astounds them.

  27. But then, is that really that astounding? Not to us.

  28. Because we Americans expect to choose everything,

  29. From the education we receive,

  30. To the relationships we have,

  31. From the officials we elect

  32. to the greatest public offices

  33. To the choices we make

  34. concerning our health and our private lives.

  35. 10.All of it is governed by choice.

  36. 11.Indeed, many would argue that for Americans,

  37. the fundamental right is not

  38. life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,

  39. but choice.

  40. 12.And this is where,

  41. standing in a store with a group of Germans

  42. is more than funny or instructive

  43. it is revelatory

  44. 13.Because as different as we might be, from Germans

  45. at that moment, they are us,

  46. in a world full of choices.

  47. where everyone and everything is screaming,

  48. choose me! choose this!


  50. And if we are honest with ourselves,

  51. we are terrified of making the wrong choice.

  52. 14.We see this fear

  53. with children applying for colleges,

  54. with young people looking for new jobs,

  55. with couples preparing for marriage,

  56. and we see it a particular way in the world of religion,

  57. 15.for all the churches and temples,

  58. 16.religions and faiths around us

  59. resemble the store shelves in that supermarket.

  60. choose Buddha one group says,

  61. or you remain in ignorance,

  62. choose Allah another proclaims

  63. or suffer the fate of the infidel.

  64. choose Jesus, many say,

  65. or you will burn in hell.

  66. 17.Such choices have such eternal consequences,

  67. That they sound like threats.

  68. And indeed, so many religious groups

  69. play to the fear of making the wrong choice,

  70. and couch that choice in terms of threats,

  71. it is little wonder

  72. that many of us walk away from religion

  73. and avoid the choice in the first place.

  74. 18.And yet this is nothing new for, when it comes to religion,

  75. Our world has also come to resemble the world of Jesus and his followers living in a land oppressed by the Romans

  76. 19.On the one hand,

  77. there were the pagan Gods and Goddesses of Rome

  78. they gave the Romans their culture and power.

  79. Who wouldn’t choose that?

  80. 20.On the other hand,

  81. there was the God of Jesus Christ,

  82. who had just fed them with bread

  83. and now was offering them food,

  84. which promised eternal life.

  85. Who wouldn't choose that?

  86. 21.These are important choices,

  87. choices which have eternal consequences.

  88. Wealth vs. freedom,

  89. power in this world vs. eternal life in the next.

  90. 22.If we were forced to make such a choice

  91. perhaps many of us would react

  92. as many will react a little later on in the Gospel.

  93. As Jesus’ own disciples will eventually do to Jesus on the night he was arrested.

  94. We would walk away,

  95. and avoid the choice in the first place.

  96. 23.But to do that is to forget something fundamental.

  97. So fundamental that they,

  98. that we in our fear to commit

  99. and make the choice

  100. all too often forget.

  101. And that is,

  102. that long before we were faced with any choice,

  103. we have already been CHOSEN.

  104. 24.For Jesus’ disciples this promise meant

  105. that though they still had to choose and choose again,

  106. they could choose again,

  107. and again and again,

  108. and make mistakes,

  109. betray their lord

  110. and deny they even knew him.

  111. And still they were chosen by him.

  112. And he would not let them go.

  113. 25.This gave them what they might have called freedom,

  114. and what we would call forgiveness.

  115. 26.For a God who still chooses us

  116. 27.even in the face of our bad choices,

  117. Is a God who forgives

  118. and gives us the freedom to choose again.

  119. 28.Maybe that is the key to making our choices

  120. in the supermarket our modern world has become.

  121. 29.Instead of being overwhelmed by choices,

  122. Look for the places where we are chosen.

  123. in baptism,

  124. where God chooses us long before we can choose God,

  125. in confession

  126. where God chooses us long after we have chosen against God

  127. in the Eucharist,

  128. where Jesus comes to us again and again, offering himself to us, before we ever offer ourselves to him,

  129. And in the Church.

  130. I know that for many these days that sounds crazy.

  131. For the Church,

  132. with its institutions plagued by scandals,

  133. drowning in lawsuits

  134. and beset by division

  135. is hardly the place anymore

  136. we would expect to meet God.

  137. But is our Catholic Church any different from that first church of 12 disciples,

  138. divided amongst themselves, pursued by the authorities, and unfaithful to their lord?

  139. NO! we forget that the Church is a human institution.

  140. And always has been.

  141. But thank God for that!

  142. Because then just so it is precisely the place

  143. where we would expect

  144. the God who chooses us despite our choices

  145. to show up and choose us yet again.

  146. And thus, the Church when we do it right,

  147. becomes far more than some scandal – plagued, hide-bound institution,

  148. but rather that place par excellence

  149. where we who are chosen are offered

  150. what the disciples yearned for,

  151. what the people that day with Jesus clamored for

  152. what Jesus embodied – acceptance, love, forgiveness, and life.

  153. 30.That is the Church, amidst all the other possibilities

  154. in our Big-Box supermarket world of choices,

  155. that Jesus offers us today.

  156. That is the Church he asks us to choose.

  157. He chooses me – he chooses you.

  158. But the final choice is still ours.

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