ONE Magazine

The official publication of
Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Celebrating 50 years | God • World • Human Family • Church


Chosen People

When I was studying in the university, the thought of becoming a priest stole up on me like an unattractive temptation. I first tended to ignore it but persistently the idea haunted me. After a while I was persuaded. God didn’t need nuclear physicists (the direction of my studies) – he needed men to work directly for him.

However, here was the rub: “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” Maybe, I thought, God needed volunteers, but why would he use a wretch like me.

After anguishing over it a long time, I finally risked talking to some good people about it. Then I was helped to understand that God uses imperfect people all the time, so why couldn’t he be calling me.

I finally came full circle. In all humility, I came to realize and accept that the Lord was calling me to serve him and his people as a priest.

Presumptuous though it may sound, I was one of his chosen people.

On mature thought, maybe it’s not presumptuous at all. Aren’t all of us God’s chosen people? St. Paul says, in his Letter to the Ephesians, God the Father “chose us in him [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him.”

“Before the foundation of the world” – that’s pretty powerful stuff – yet it’s God’s plan for you and me, we chosen people.

Of course, “Chosen People” usually calls to mind Jews. That’s their proud title. It refers to God’s choice not just of individuals but of a whole nation.

Even though a Jew is born into a chosen people, he or she must still come to realize God’s choice and choose, in turn, to serve him. And, so must choose every believer in the God of Abraham, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim.

The First Book of Samuel tells a story that gives pause to overconfidence about being a chosen person.

The prophet Samuel was guided by God to anoint Saul the first king of Israel. Samuel presented him to the people with the words, “Do you see the man whom the Lord has chosen? There is none like him among all the people!”

Yet, later, Samuel comes to rebuke Saul, “…your kingdom shall not endure. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart and has appointed him commander of his people, because you broke the Lord’s command.”

God deposed the very one he chose.

A vivid memory I have from my youth is a drawing in Integrity magazine. Jesus is walking by Matthew’s toll station saying, “Follow me,” and Matthew is leaping up to respond, overturning his table of coins.

What greater calling than to be an apostle! Yet, Judas, one of that chosen twelve, hand-picked by the Lord himself, ended so badly that his very name has become a synonym for betrayal.

The moral of all this is clear – to be chosen by God is neither a guarantee of success nor an immunity to failure. A chosen person, a chosen people, can completely fail to realize the potential or even betray the very calling they have.

Are you scared? You ought to be.

How to avoid this? By never forgetting “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you.” And, by always seeking the will of the Lord who chose first, making it the measure of our daily lives and actions.

The choice is yours.

Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern

Msgr. Archimandrite Robert L. Stern

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