Chosen. Treasured. Empowered. According to St. Paul, that’s how Christians ought to feel when we walk in God’s grace.
We heard that assurance in today’s first reading, from the letter to the people at Ephesus:
In Christ, we were also chosen…were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit…which is the first installment of our inheritance…
Kinda makes you feel warm and fuzzy all over, doesn’t it? To realize just how much you matter to God. How God treasures you…and desires to empower you.
Much the same theme appeared in the Gospel reading today. Jesus assures his disciples,
Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.
Isn’t it odd, though, that we encounter both readings on the day we celebrate the memory of St. Ignatius of Antioch?
We know as much as we do about Ignatius today because of the seven letters he wrote (to various church communities in the Middle East) while being transported from Antioch to Rome to face his execution.
Which is to say, Ignatius probably felt anything but warm and fuzzy during the last days of his life. He knew, beyond shadow of a doubt, that things were about to end badly—his body torn to pieces by wild beasts.
Such is the nature of God’s favor, it seems: ‘Chosen’ doesn’t mean things will always work out painlessly. ‘Treasured’ does not imply ‘safe from harm.’ And yet, we have been sealed by the promised Holy Spirit.
How potent is that gift? Powerful enough to have given Ignatius this memorable insight into the nature of his sacrifice:
I am God’s wheat and I shall be ground by the teeth of beasts, that I may become the pure bread of Christ.
As it was then, so it is today: When we live as chosen…treasured…and empowered children of God, it does not come with a promise of sweetness and light. Not in this life, anyway.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy One.