As many of you know,
I have many connections to Germany.
I am not German,
though I speak the language
have lived there.
And, at least before Covid,
I hosted friends here,
and traveled there.
Germans are just like us.
They live in a modern, western - style country,
with a government that works
and an economy that is strong.
But every so often I have experiences with Germans
that remind me that,
we live in different worlds.
to an American supermarket
or “big box” superstore.
And you will find them
poring over the household appliances,
talking excitedly about things
like pot scrubbers and other items
we could by in any Bed Bath and Beyond or Target.
It is not that they don't have choices.
It is the range of choices we have that astounds them.
But then, is that really that astounding? Not to us.
Because we Americans expect to choose everything,
From the education we receive,
To the relationships we have,
From the officials we elect
to the greatest public offices
To the choices we make
concerning our health and our private lives.
10.All of it is governed by choice.
11.Indeed, many would argue that for Americans,
the fundamental right is not
life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,
12.And this is where,
standing in a store with a group of Germans
is more than funny or instructive
it is revelatory
13.Because as different as we might be, from Germans
at that moment, they are us,
in a world full of choices.
where everyone and everything is screaming,
choose me! choose this!
WE HAVE TO CHOOSE.
And if we are honest with ourselves,
we are terrified of making the wrong choice.
14.We see this fear
with children applying for colleges,
with young people looking for new jobs,
with couples preparing for marriage,
and we see it a particular way in the world of religion,
15.for all the churches and temples,
16.religions and faiths around us
resemble the store shelves in that supermarket.
choose Buddha one group says,
or you remain in ignorance,
choose Allah another proclaims
or suffer the fate of the infidel.
choose Jesus, many say,
or you will burn in hell.
17.Such choices have such eternal consequences,
That they sound like threats.
And indeed, so many religious groups
play to the fear of making the wrong choice,
and couch that choice in terms of threats,
it is little wonder
that many of us walk away from religion
and avoid the choice in the first place.
18.And yet this is nothing new for, when it comes to religion,
Our world has also come to resemble the world of Jesus and his followers living in a land oppressed by the Romans
19.On the one hand,
there were the pagan Gods and Goddesses of Rome
they gave the Romans their culture and power.
Who wouldn’t choose that?
20.On the other hand,
there was the God of Jesus Christ,
who had just fed them with bread
and now was offering them food,
which promised eternal life.
Who wouldn't choose that?
21.These are important choices,
choices which have eternal consequences.
Wealth vs. freedom,
power in this world vs. eternal life in the next.
22.If we were forced to make such a choice
perhaps many of us would react
as many will react a little later on in the Gospel.
As Jesus’ own disciples will eventually do to Jesus on the night he was arrested.
We would walk away,
and avoid the choice in the first place.
23.But to do that is to forget something fundamental.
So fundamental that they,
that we in our fear to commit
and make the choice
all too often forget.
And that is,
that long before we were faced with any choice,
we have already been CHOSEN.
24.For Jesus’ disciples this promise meant
that though they still had to choose and choose again,
they could choose again,
and again and again,
and make mistakes,
betray their lord
and deny they even knew him.
And still they were chosen by him.
And he would not let them go.
25.This gave them what they might have called freedom,
and what we would call forgiveness.
26.For a God who still chooses us
27.even in the face of our bad choices,
Is a God who forgives
and gives us the freedom to choose again.
28.Maybe that is the key to making our choices
in the supermarket our modern world has become.
29.Instead of being overwhelmed by choices,
Look for the places where we are chosen.
where God chooses us long before we can choose God,
where God chooses us long after we have chosen against God
in the Eucharist,
where Jesus comes to us again and again, offering himself to us, before we ever offer ourselves to him,
And in the Church.
I know that for many these days that sounds crazy.
For the Church,
with its institutions plagued by scandals,
drowning in lawsuits
and beset by division
is hardly the place anymore
we would expect to meet God.
But is our Catholic Church any different from that first church of 12 disciples,
divided amongst themselves, pursued by the authorities, and unfaithful to their lord?
NO! we forget that the Church is a human institution.
And always has been.
But thank God for that!
Because then just so it is precisely the place
where we would expect
the God who chooses us despite our choices
to show up and choose us yet again.
And thus, the Church when we do it right,
becomes far more than some scandal – plagued, hide-bound institution,
but rather that place par excellence
where we who are chosen are offered
what the disciples yearned for,
what the people that day with Jesus clamored for
what Jesus embodied – acceptance, love, forgiveness, and life.
30.That is the Church, amidst all the other possibilities
in our Big-Box supermarket world of choices,
that Jesus offers us today.
That is the Church he asks us to choose.
He chooses me – he chooses you.
But the final choice is still ours.
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