I know whom I have chosen

uomo nella stradaMaundy Thursday
Thursdays are special at Silverstream Priory, first of all because every Thursday recalls Maundy Thursday, the feast of the Natalis Calicis, the birthday of the Eucharistic Chalice and of the Priesthood. Moreover, we keep every Thursday as a kind of Corpus Domini, a weekly feast of the adorable Mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ, marked by the Office and Mass of the Most Blessed Sacrament whenever permitted by the rubrics.

Maundy Thursday will draw us again into the Cenacle to relive, in some way, the institution of the priesthood and the washing of the feet. It is the day par excellence of reparation and intercession for priests. After Tenebrae (anticipated Matins of Good Friday) we will linger at the Altar of Repose in communion with all the priests of the world and, especially, for those who find themselves alone in a dark night.

Reading Saint John
One expression of our particular charism as Benedictines of Perpetual Adoration is the lectio divina we make every Thursday in the Gospel of Saint John, Chapters XIII through XVII. These are the chapters containing Our Lord’s discourse at the Last Supper in the Cenacle, culminating in His priestly prayer to the Father. I don’t always read all five chapters every week; I make a beginning and, more often than not, find myself compelled to linger over a particular verse. On Maundy Thursday, however, I am compelled to read the entire discourse and to receive it afresh from the lips and from the Heart of Our Lord.

Chosen in Love
Consider, for a moment, John 13:18: “I know whom I have chosen.”  Jesus utters these words in the double context of the washing of the feet and the imminent betrayal by Judas. He knows those who are clean in their relationship to Him, those who, although frail and tempted, love Him; and He knows too that among the men He chose there is one whose heart has become unclean, one who has allowed the Evil One to poison him and lure him into the darkness. Jesus’ complete knowledge of each one of the Apostles — of their past, their present, and their future — did not deter Him from choosing them in love.

Lord, Thou Knowest All Things
When Jesus chose Peter, He saw not only the unfolding of Peter’s personal history: his heredity, his conception, birth, childhood, manhood, marriage, friendships, labours, and strengths.  He also saw Peter’s intelligence, his emotions, his dreams, his weaknesses, and his most secret desires. He saw his fears, his limitations, and his temptations.  He saw even his sins, culminating in the shameful denial on the night before He suffered: “I know not the man” (Matthew 26:71).  He saw too Peter’s repentance in tears and, in advance, heard his threefold act of reparation and of love: “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee; Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee; Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15–17). And, knowing all of these things, Christ Jesus chose him. “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:8).

An Inscrutable Mystery
Even Jesus’ choice of Judas was made in love; at no point did the will of God deprive Judas of the freedom to respond to the love of Jesus for him with love.  Even after his betrayal, Judas could have returned to Jesus and found forgiveness and healing close to His Heart. After the death of Jesus, Judas could have gone to Mary and found in her maternal Heart forgiveness and hope. But he chose to go his own way.  One comes here up against an inscrutable mystery: the Providence of God and the free will of man.

Psalm 138
Hearing this word of Jesus, “I know whom I have chosen” (John 13:8), causes one to want to open the Psalter and pray Psalm 138. It is a psalm that I recommend to anyone who is engaged in discerning his vocation:

Lord, thou hast proved me, and known me: Thou hast know my sitting down, and my rising up. Thou hast understood my thoughts afar off: my path and my line thou hast searched out. And thou hast foreseen all my ways: for there is no speech in my tongue. Behold, O Lord, thou hast known all things, the last and those of old: thou hast formed me, and hast laid thy hand upon me.

Thy knowledge is become wonderful to me: it is high, and I cannot reach to it. Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy face? If I ascend into heaven, thou art there: if I descend into hell, thou art present. If I take my wings early in the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea: Even there also shall thy hand lead me: and thy right hand shall hold me.

And I said: Perhaps darkness shall cover me: and night shall be my light in my pleasures. But darkness shall not be dark to thee, and night shall be light as day: the darkness thereof, and the light thereof are alike to thee. For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast protected me from my mother’ s womb. I will praise thee, for thou art fearfully magnified: wonderful are thy works, and my soul knoweth right well. My bone is not hidden from thee, which thou hast made in secret: and my substance in the lower parts of the earth. (Psalm 138:1–16)

The Preferences of God
There is immense comfort in the certainty that God chooses a man and offers him a place in His divine plan, knowing him through and through. Nothing of what we have been or done, nothing of what we are or are doing, nothing of what we will be or will do invalidates the choice of God.  His election of each soul reveals His infinite wisdom and infinite mercy.

There are, I know, men who think that, because of things they have done or because of things they may be inclined to do, believe that God could never, would never, choose them for a privileged friendship with Himself or for the service of souls.  The annals of holiness through the ages testify to something very different: the preferences of God go towards the men who would, by worldly standards, be excluded, or be judged a poor risk, or otherwise be discounted.

For see your vocation, brethren, that there are not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble: But the foolish things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the wise; and the weak things of the world hath God chosen, that he may confound the strong. And the base things of the world, and the things that are contemptible, hath God chosen, and things that are not, that he might bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his sight. But of him are you in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and justice, and sanctification, and redemption. (1 Corinthians 1:26–30)

Listening to Blessed John Henry Newman
These are things that I would invite any man considering a monastic vocation to ponder and hold in his heart. If Jesus has chosen you, it is because He already knows you, and knowing you as you have been, as you are, and as you will be, He loves you still and will never go back on His choice. Blessed John Henry Newman knew this and expressed it in a text to which I often return:

I am created to do something or to be something for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has; whether I be rich or poor, despised or esteemed by man, God knows me and calls me by my name.

God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission—I never may know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. Somehow I am necessary for His purposes, as necessary in my place as an Archangel in his—if, indeed, I fail, He can raise another, as He could make the stones children of Abraham. Yet I have a part in this great work; I am a link in a chain, a bond of connexion between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good, I shall do His work; I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it, if I do but keep His commandments and serve Him in my calling.

Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. My sickness, or perplexity, or sorrow may be necessary causes of some great end, which is quite beyond us. He does nothing in vain; He may prolong my life, He may shorten it; He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends, He may throw me among strangers, He {302} may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide the future from me—still He knows what He is about. (John Henry Cardinal Newman, Meditations on Christian Doctrine)

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