#TheChoosing is the podcast for May 6, 2018. What does it mean for a person to choose you? It is amazing, even transformative. Now what? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John #John15 #Abandoned #BigBrothers #Love #LouHoltz #SecretNeurosis #SecretFaults
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 5/6/2018 The 6th Sunday of Easter.
Please pause this audio and read John 15:9-17.
When I was 8 years old, I got the gift of a lifetime. For the previous 7 years, my father never really showed any interest in my life. My parents were divorced and my dad would make appointments to take me places and just not show up. It seriously broke my heart and impacted the way that I viewed myself then and also the fight that goes on inside me on how I view myself now.
I turned 8 in the summer of 1973 and a young man who was in his late 20’s at the time was matched with me through the Big Brothers mentoring program. Although I was so extremely happy, it was not always that great for him. It was hard to have an overly energetic kid like me. As “a source close to the situation” told me, the way I behaved was too much to the point that he considered not being my Big Brother. I am thankful to tell you that he was the Best Man at my wedding. He most recently went with me when I filed my candidacy to run for a government office in our state capital.
The back story is that even though I had problems, he chose to stay with me. Even though I was an angry kid who was emotionally a mess, overbearing in my desire to please, and loud, he chose to keep me as his Little Brother. It is hard for me, even at age 53, to talk about what this means to me emotionally. It is beyond telling what it means to me as a man. When I was the least lovable, Barry, my Big Brother, chose to keep loving me!
I have told you that my mother’s friends told me that they encouraged her to abort me when she found herself divorced, with eight children to feed, $100 in her bank account, a high school education, and was abandoned by her family. My mother chose to keep me when all the odds were against her. When it was not the most convenient thing, my mother chose me. She chose to treasure me, rather than see me as a burden.
I have often quoted former football coach Lou Holtz who said that when people deserve love the least is when they need love the most. That love, my friends, in part, is a choice. It is a choice to treasure people when they deserve it the least. Think of this passage from the Gospel of St. John.
Jesus is talking to the apostles just before he is going to give up his life for them and yet, he knows they are going to desert him. They will save their own hide, fail to stand up for him, leave him in the dust, before the cock crows twice-every single one of them. Jesus chooses them.
Of all the species in the universe, God chose us to be in his image and likeness. He chose his Son to fulfill his mission by eliminating the separation between God and humanity. Jesus then went on to collect this rag tag group of fishermen, tax collectors, and regular guys to follow him and do his work, which is the work the Father in heaven gave him.
The response of Jesus to the desertion was to defeat Satan, death, and evil, and then go gather the apostles together again. He then renews them and gives them a mission: do as I have done. As I have loved you, you also should love one another.
We should choose each other. We should treasure each other. We should gather each other. We should be in mission with each other. We should love one another because that is the way the chain is supposed to work. We got loved, we give love.
[When you sit in your church, I want you to think of the fact that everyone who is sitting there with you has been chosen by God to be there in that moment.] [All of us sitting here have been chosen by God to be here in this moment for him and for one another.] We have been chosen to invite others to join us here. We have been chosen to enjoy each other, support one another, and sacrifice something for one another. We know because the Father in heaven chose to make us, treasures us, enjoys us, support us, sent the Son to be sacrificed for us, so that there would be nothing standing between us and him. He chose us.
We are to choose others, treasure others, enjoy others, support others, and sacrifice for others. Just like when my mother chose to give me life and Barry chose to keep me as his Little Brother, these actions change lives. It is the pattern of our lives. It is the way that we should try to look at people when we go out into the world.
The woman who is ogled at because of her beauty, what types of burdens does that place on her to be objectified all the time? Could we treasure her for something else? Or what about the person who is not attractive, what kind of beauty is there that others are missing? What about the physically dirty person or the deformed person? What about the jerk or the brash person? How can we see them with the same treasuring spirit that the Lord does? Is the obnoxious child just a leader who is not in the right place? Look at the worst of people, what is there to treasure about them?
Once we have identified these qualities, then we need to speak. We need to speak something that is encouraging, loving, kindly. This getting beyond the appearances to speak to the soul is wisdom. It should not be lost on us that the foundation of the community of faith was laid in this conversation between Jesus and the apostles. It is the foundation that said that he would welcome them back and trust them with the mission because he knows them and he CHOSE them anyway.
Years ago, in my constant struggle to reconcile my weaknesses with the calling of God to be a priest, a mentor told me, “everyone will do something better than you in this ministry, but you were chosen by God to do it.” The Lord sees who we will be when we rely upon him. When we accept that we have been chosen to love, then the power of God is unleashed in our everyday life.
Sometimes it is a word of correction because we want to shield the other. Sometimes it is a word of comfort and treasure of the other to heal open wounds. Sometimes it is to say no to behaviors that are not healthy. Sometimes it is to demand that a person stop disrespecting themselves in our presence and live up to the person we know they can be. Sometimes it is to point out a positive quality that they never knew they had. Whatever it is, it is our choice from the Father’s choice to put us there and the Son’s choice to send us there.
It is all in the choosing. Do we accept the Father’s choice that we should live the life of love between each other and to the world? Do we accept the choice that he sees in us what we could never see? Do we accept the choice to be courageous and strong when we would rather not? Do we accept the choice that for His mission, the Lord Jesus called us from our nets to fish for him? Do we accept his choice that we are to be his people, live his life, and share his love to the world?
When we do, then we will be transformed and we will transform others. “As the Father has loved me, so also, I have loved you,” said Jesus. Choose to love. Choose it. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian