Friday of the Second Week of Lent

In our own day, when people speak of a “free and fair election,” they usually mean that the election in question was a properly democratic one, in which a leader is chosen through a vote where each person casting a ballot has an equal voice. At its root, however, an “election” is simply a choice, and to “elect” is to choose. At the heart of Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises is the “election,” in which the one making the exercises is given an opportunity to discern and personally choose the state of life that God has chosen for that person.
Both of our readings for today deal with election. Time and again, God chooses a person and sets that person apart for some specific task or relationship. God’s election is always free and fair, although—in the Bible, anyway—it is not characteristically democratic. The single deciding vote is always God’s. If that seems unfair to you, then you are not alone: there are plenty of people in the scriptures who agree. For example, in the first reading from Genesis 37, Joseph is the elect, loved more by his father Israel than his older, more deserving sons, and privileged by God with special dreams. Neither Joseph nor his brothers seem to understand the true meaning of election (which Joseph will learn only through his service as a slave in Egypt), since both seem to think of it in terms of “lording over.” In any case, Joseph’s older brothers reject Joseph’s election as unfair and so plot to kill him, even though—at Reuben’s existence—they merely sell him into slavery, which would presumably suffice to thwart the fulfillment of Joseph’s God-given dreams. God knows better.
In today’s gospel from Matthew 21, Jesus observes, through a parable, that each person that God chooses and sends to represent him ends up dying at the hands of those to whom the servant has been sent. In the parable, the people even kill the son of the landowner, reasoning, “this is the heir, come, let us kill him and acquire his inheritance.” Jesus is, of course, referring to himself, and this parable reveals something important about the people that Jesus chooses for a task: they are all chosen in him, and representatives of him. If we reject the one whom God has chosen, we reject him. In any case, it is interesting to notice a pattern: in scripture, election by God and election by the people often coincide, with God choosing a particular person to bring life, and the people, as a result, choosing the same person for death. Thank goodness we no longer kill the messengers that God sends us (let us hope not, in any case!). But do we receive them and welcome the life that they offer us (even if it be difficult), or do we oppose them and try to ruin them with malicious gossip? Let us not forget by whom they have been elected and for whom they have been sent!
February 26th, 2016