I was in Mass listening to the cantor sing the responsorial psalm, “These are the people the Lord has chosen, chosen to be his own.” I thought, “Seriously? Really, God, these are the people you chose to be your own? Was no one else around? It must have been some seriously slim pickings.”
I know this sounds rather cynical, but truly, we can be scary people: mass shootings, human trafficking, abortion, sexual predators, greed, self-glorification … well, just pick any day and read the headlines.
And I do believe people are good. I do believe they mean well. I even think when someone claims they don’t believe in God that they really do – it’s just a little deeper inside – right beyond where they have looked. And I always have hope that they will look a little farther someday and come to know what they believe.
Still, it’s hard to imagine anyone deliberately choosing our hot mess of a people that makes up humanity.
I peeked over to look at my husband’s missal, wanting to read the words for myself. That’s when I realized I’d misheard the lyrics. It’s like when Kenny Rogers sings “Lucille.” You may think he’s singing, “You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille, with 400 children and a crop in the field.” But it’s really not 400 children because that would be excessive, even by Catholic standards. It’s four HUNGRY children! (Although, by either account, that was harsh of Lucille.)
What the cantor was singing was not “These are the people,” but “Blessed are the people that the Lord has chosen to be his own.” Reading this, I felt the kind of relief that Kenny would have, had Lucille shown back up with a bucket of fried chicken, some biscuits, and a heap of cousins to harvest the crop.
It made more sense to me to contemplate the blessings of Him choosing us.
But you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises” of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (1 Peter 2:9)
Yet He didn’t just choose us as an entirety of humanity but as individuals whom He loves and longs for intimacy with.
See, upon the palms of my hands I have engraved you; your walls are ever before me. (Isaiah 49:16)
Sometimes I think the problem with our humanity has nothing to do with the semantics of whether “These are the people the Lord has chosen” or “Blessed are the people the Lord has chosen.” It’s that we can’t wrap our head around any of it. We can’t understand why God would choose us as individuals or entities. We can’t grasp the enormity of the blessings that comes from being children of God, children He wants — calls out by name and loves unconditionally.
I know I don’t get it. That, when I am sitting in a holy place and hear the holy words that He has chosen us, that I question it. I guess it’s hard to get past the question, why? or really? or how come?
Maybe the answer isn’t in the questioning, or even in the listening. It’s like the lyrics of a song when you think they are one thing and about something else entirely. Perhaps, it’s a matter of hearing.
Blessed are the people the Lord has chosen to be his own. (Psalm 33)
Copyright 2020 Lara Patangan