Reading 1, Second Chronicles 36:14-17, 19-23
Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 137:1-2, 3, 4-5, 6
Gospel, John 3:14-21
Reading 2, Ephesians 2:4-10
I remember when I was in junior high school, there was a gangbanger (GB) who was constantly picking on me. I’m not sure why. I was a church boy, played in band, and played basketball during my lunch times so I can’t think of why I was a threat to him and his homies. One day I was playing basketball and this GB comes on to the court hollering at me: “ROY! ROY!” He was getting louder and closer. So I decided that he crossed the free throw line where I was standing that I was gonna throw a punch. Sure enough, he crossed the line and I became “fist-a-cuffs!”.
The next day, this gangbangers friend–who was half my size–came and “hit me up!”…with 10 of his friends. I was all alone, with my drumsticks in hand heading to band class. I thought, “I’m dead!” but I’ll bust out a few paradiddles on some heads before I go down.
After some pleasantries, I heard a voice behind me and a bunch of footsteps. By now, a mob of people are surrounding us and the voice says, “Roy! We got your back!” It was my friend “Filo” (look it up) and his friends. The year prior to me being at school, my cousin had attended the same jr high school and told his friends to look out for me.
Sometimes when I listen to a man’s story, it is shortcoming that I’ll hear them allude to a feeling of a parent figure not being “there” for them. The story somehow conveys a belief: who is “for me”, who is “with me”?
I obviously do not condone bullying or violence. But I was sure glad that someone was “for me” and “with me”. 🙂
I think and feel differently about myself and others when I experience being loved and belonging. One of the greatest miracles that I feel the Gospel has done in my life is transform the way I feel about myself and others. I know Good News has more far-reaching implications than my “measly” self. 🙂 But I also know that God’s redemptive choosing involves “little ole me”.
When I read these passages, what I hear is “I chose you. I love you. You belong to me.” Thanks to Scot McKnight (his blog is way better than mine) and his book “A Fellowship of Differents“, when I hear the word love, I hear “I’m with you, for you, and unto you”. It’s not just a “feeling” from God but a disposition that He has towards us.
The readings today convey this sense that God does all the initiating in our lives to love us and chooses us. I hear way too many stories of people not feeling beloved or that they belong.
What happens when you and I feel like we belong and that we’re loved? We begin to act that way with God, others, and our selves.
These powerful truths have rearranged my life. I can look back at this photo of my jr high self and know that I’m loved and belong by a God who chooses us. May these words bless you as well…because you’re already chosen, beloved, and belong.