"I chose you."
It was traditional that disciples chose the rabbi under whom they wanted to study. Paul, the Apostle, boasts of how he studied under the great Rabbi Gamaliel. But Jesus turns this tradition upside down. "You did not choose me," he reminds his disciples. "I chose you." We would assume that Jesus would then have selected the brightest, most promising of disciples. But we would be wrong. These disciples were a seriously flawed, ragtag bunch of braggadocio fishermen, tax collectors, hothead zealots and betrayers.
Why, then, did Jesus choose them? What special qualities did they have? Part of the answer may be found in Deuteronomy 7:7 where Moses reminds the Israelites why God chose them. "It was not because you are more numerous than all the peoples that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you; for you are really the smallest of all peoples. It was because the LORD loved you…"
God’s ways are always mysterious. Consider: God, who is almighty, all-knowing, all-present, all-loving, all-forgiving, all-merciful, is saying to us: You have something I don’t have. Give that to me. What is it? Our weakness.
God loved and chose the Israelites precisely because they were insignificant. Jesus loved and chose the 12 because they were so stunningly flawed.
God clearly has a special bias for the least, the weakest, the poorest, the broken. And therein lies the good news for us: "I chose you." Jesus calls us his friends, not as a reward for being so good, or virtuous, or bright, but out of sheer, extravagant love. Jesus calls each of us to an important mission. We are to love and serve one another. Our qualification for the job? Our weakness.
Deacon Manuel Valencia is on the staff at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.