January 22, 2022
On the first day of our trip, we finally arrived in Jerusalem. I was giddy. History, after so much talk and pictures and imagination, was literally right in front of me. During the Crusades, Europe sent tens of thousands of soldiers halfway across the known world to THIS city, I thought to myself. Wars both political and religious have been fought over these precious hills and valleys. Millions of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim pilgrims came here because God did great wonders here. Jesus Christ, of all places in the world, lived and died here. Truly, I said to myself, this place is special.
Shaking with anticipation, I walked out on our building’s rooftop which overlooked the entire city. But as I looked around at Jerusalem’s surroundings, I noticed nothing special. Not a river, lake, or ocean in sight – just tall, dry, rocky hills everywhere. Not exactly a land flowing with milk and honey, as Moses promised. Strategically, I noticed that Jerusalem was sitting in the middle of a valley: an easy target for siege and invasion. Seriously, one could have picked a far better location than here to build a city! So, why here?
As I made my way from the roof, more than a bit confused, my mind tried calculating God’s perspective of things. God could have picked anywhere to raise up his chosen people, and he picked here? This isn’t even the best location! The Fertile Crescent, thousands of miles east of here, would have been a far better place for Israel to live, grow, and expand. What’s so great about here? My expectations began to reveal themselves, expectations that everything here in the Holy Land would be special, the best, and most ideal – simply because God chose it. If God chose something, you would think God would choose the best, right? Why wouldn’t he?
It was no coincidence that the reading at Mass the next day was the story of David’s anointing. David, the youngest and by far the least inspiring candidate for kingship among his seven brothers, is chosen by God to be king of Israel. Why? We do not know – only what happened next. Why did God choose this land to be his Holy Land and Jerusalem to be his chosen city? We do not know – only what happened next.
For me, I wonder why God chose me to be his priest. I am not special, the best, or most ideal candidate among my friends and family. What I do know is that what happens next is far more important. Calculating the ‘why’ of God is a natural desire, but it is also an invitation to trust that God sees far more than I do. All I can do is trust His call and live into it by the grace that He gives me today.
God has also chosen us all, among our family and friends, to carry his salvation forth through our lives. He has equipped us with the Scriptures and Sacraments, and trusts us to inspire people to deeper and more lively faith! Why? Not because we are the best or most ideal candidates for this mission, but you and I can determine what happens next. And perhaps that will truly be the best and most ideal part of the story.
Archdiocese of Chicago