“Your parents didn’t want you.” Those are five of the most memorable words spoken to me. They were spoken to me by an old monk. At first I took offense. You don’t know my parents, I replied. Then he went on: Your parents may have wanted a child, and they got a child. They may have even wanted a son, and they got a son. But they had no idea who you would turn out to be. No idea at all.
But God did. God wanted us. God knew exactly what we would be like at age 1, age 10, age 30, and age 89. He knew what we would be like, what we would do, who we would marry. He knew how we would begin and how we will end. He knew what our strengths and struggles would be. He knew it all. And he chose us. He wanted us….he wanted us into being when he made us and he wants us into being at every heart beat, every breath. The second reading today tells us that God planned us from the start, that he chose us from the beginning, from before the foundations of the world. Before the blueprints for planet earth were drawn up, God had you and me in mind, and more importantly, he had us in heart. He wanted us into existence, he loved us into being. Today we celebrate that God wanted us, and that he wants us still.
I think that the moment we get this and take it to heart is the moment our lives change forever! Because then we might just find ourselves asking this question: Why did God make me? What is my role, for this day and for my whole life?
The first and third readings give us some ideas about all this.
The first reading tells us that Amos was a lowly dresser of sycamore trees. This was a lowly job. The sycamore tree is a relative of the mulberry and it produces a fruit that was known as the “poor man’s fig.” These sycamore fruits are slow to ripen. Apparently both the ripening speed and the taste is improved if the fruit is pierced during a certain stage of its growth. So that was Amos’ job, to climb trees and poke holes in the fruits. It was a dirty, smelly, lowly job, not for the high classed. He was also a shepherd, which was considered to be another smelly, dirty, lowly job. He probably felt pretty small, pretty unimportant. But then he comes to learn what St Paul says so beautifully, that God had wanted him, that God had a plan for him, that God had a design for him. And his life changed. He became a magnetic prophet.
And then we have the apostles, a mess of a group if you ever saw one. Today we see them failing, we see them trying their darndest but failing to communicate the Gospel message. Maybe we know the feeling, the feeling, that is, of failing, or seeming to fail. The apostles probably wanted to give up, but then they receive some comforting words from Jesus: Shake the dust off and move on. You are worth more than your failures. It’s almost as if Jesus is telling them, I love you more than you could know, far more than you love yourself. I picked you for this job, and I picked you for a reason. Now get over yourself and go be who I made you to be.
Most of us think we’re too old or two young to be following God’s plan for our lives in a radical way just as Amos and the Apostles felt too young or too old, but I assure you it is our duty to follow God in a radical way no matter how old. I know many old folks who wonder why they are still around. I think the reason is, God isn’t done with you yet! Perhaps some prayer you will utter at some odd hour of the night will convert your great grandson from a bad path. Perhaps your gentleness in the nursing home is exactly what some nurse needed to get through a rough patch. Others say I’m too old to learn how to pray the rosary, too old to start the bible, too old to work at the food pantry, too old to take part in this or that ministry. Hate to tell you, but if we’re not growing in the faith, in the church, then we’re not being disciples.
Then there are some who think they’re too young to follow God’s plan for them. I have to tell you, I’m not so concerned about this after the last week I had though. I went on a 3 day trip with the youth group to Holiday World. We prayed and played together and had a wonderful time. The last night there, Thursday night, we all prayed a rosary while it was raining. It was the most peaceful thing. Then we did praise and worship music. I went back to Meinrad where I was staying. I went to the chapel, and there were 100 kids in there kneeling in front of the blessed sacrament at 1:00 in the morning. Folks, our young church is on fire and it is a happy thing. Soon a whole bunch of Catholic youth from our parish will join over 20,000 other Catholic youth. Support them as best you can. Their names are on the trees in the narthex….take one and sponsor if you can, because these things help our young church learn what St Paul tells us, what Amos and the Apostles came to see: that God has a plan for us and that our lives find fruitfulness and fulfillment and great joy when we figure out why.
Whether we think we’re too old or too young, we also sometimes think we’re too little, too weak, too incompetent, too normal—and we convince ourselves that God isn’t calling me to anything special. That is a falsity! Jesus in the Gospel tells us that we his disciples have the power to cast out spirits, that his power is in us! Especially when we receive the Eucharist! I’ll end with the words to this tune by Jeremy Camp:
The same power that rose Jesus from the grave
The same power that commands the dead to wake
Lives in us, lives in us
The same power that moves mountains when He speaks
The same power that can calm a ragin’ sea
Lives in us, lives in us, He lives in us, lives in us!