Acts 10:25 – 26, 34 – 35, 44 – 48
1 John 4: 7 – 10
John 15:9 – 17

The experience of being chosen by someone can be a welcome one. It might be as simple as someone choosing us to be on their team; or, some years later, to be their referee, when applying for a job; they trust us to give them a good reference. But being chosen can be even more significant still. At the root of every happy marriage is the fact that two people once chose and then kept on choosing each other. At the heart of every true friendship is a similar choice. Two people choose to be friends with each other; they valued their relationship as special and worthwhile. As in marriage, the choice must be mutual if the friendship is to last. When the choice is one-sided, there can be heartbreak for the one not chosen in return. One of life’s really painful experiences is unrequited love.
In the gospel today Jesus uses this language of choice and friendship. He tells them (and us), “I chose you,” “I call you friends.” We can each hear those words as addressed to us. The disciples here represent us all. He has handed over his life for us all. Like St. Paul we can each say that the Son of God loved me and gave himself for me. In giving his life for us, Jesus chose us, personally, called each of us his friend. His words are to us, “You are my friends.” The Mass makes present the self-giving death of Jesus in every generation, to every community that gathers for the Breaking of Bread. Right here and now he continues to speak those same words from the last supper, “You are my friends,” “I chose you.” But here’s a thing: In our personal lives, choosing one means not choosing another. This is not the case with the good Lord, who is able to choose each of us equally. As Peter says in the first reading, “God does not have favourites.”
If I choose someone as a friend, I want that person to make a similar choice of me. Similarly, the Lord’s choice of us seeks and desires our choice of him. Having chosen us, he wants us to reciprocate that choice. Earlier in the gospel, at a time when many people stopped following him, he turned to his disciples and said to them, “Do you also wish to go away?” Jesus was inviting them to respond to the choice he had made of them. At that highly-charged moment, Peter said on behalf of them all, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the message of eternal life.” In this way he publicly declared his choice of Jesus. At Mass we both celebrate the Lord’s choice of us and we renew our choice of him. When we respond to his invitation to take and eat, we take Him to heart and renew our choice him as our way, our truth and our life.
This could easily be an empty slogan, except that John stated clearly what he meant by love, and it is echoed in today’s second reading. “This is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us, when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes away our sins.” The deep truth about God is not that he loves us or that he is a lovable being, but rather that, in himself, he is love. By his nature God gives and shares of his inner self. It also means that whoever receives the gift of God’s love must mirror God’s own sharing of self. God’s love was such as to impel him to give his only Son so that we might have life through him.
I am quite unable to love myself to the same degree that God loves me. God is even closer to me than I am to myself. Through the prophet Isaiah 49:16) God addresses to me the consoling words, “See upon the palm of my hand I have written your name.” Indeed, in the person of Jesus, God, as it were, reaches out to us with two hands — the one extended in forgiveness which saves us from being engulfed here and now in our evil ways, the other casting a ray of light beyond the portals of death, reminding us that as God raised Christ from the dead, so he will redeem us too, when we have completed our earthly existence. That we are able to grasp those hands of God extended to us, that we are able to cling to them steadfastly, is more a gift of God’s grace that our own accomplishment. No amount of self-pruning, of teeth-gritting human striving, will bring us any closer to God.
But if we try and go through life in the conviction that God’s loving care is watching over us, we will cease to be anxious about our own happiness, about what we would like to become. Strange as it may seem, faith in God’s love for us frees us from all kinds of inner pressures, and yet at the same time brings us to a closer and more completely loving our God. “There are three things that last,” St Paul tells us, “faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). For coming into the presence of God, faith will give way to vision, hope to attainment, but love will continue alive and well for all eternity.
The success of a person as a person, as a human being, is to be measured by how well he/she loves. All else is mere chaff, perishable and fleeting. Love alone is enduring, eternal. Sooner or later, all of us will have to stand amid the debris and ruins of our life and assess our value and worth. Everything, except our acts of love, will collapse and crumble in the dust. Nothing can withstand the ravages of time, the vagaries of the future and the fluctuations of value. The one, therefore, who has learned to love well at least one person (and to love one person, a segment of humanity, is to love all) will have an inner strength to face God with a certain amount of serenity. The one who has failed to love has every reason to tremble. Denial of God and life after death is an attempt to escape such a painful predicament.
On the other hand, the one who has loved well inevitably have stumbled towards God. In loving well, we discover the Divine in ourselves and in the other. Thus we discern the common ground of harmony that exists between us, others and God. It is this triangular love affair lived with passionate ardour that harnesses and fructifies all our full human potential for growth. This is what makes a person fully human an fully alive, fills one with joy and enables one to take delight in the other, and the wholly Other, God.
God bless