God’s Chosen People (Like Everyone Else)
Thoughts on the First Readings – Joe Frankenfield
I was three when my younger brother was born. For three years I’d been my mother’s, grandmother’s and aunt’s special little boy. Then one day I walked into the bedroom where my mother slept beside my brother’s crib and heard her call him her special little boy. I was about to learn some life-changing lessons.
Religious people sometimes have a difficult time with the idea that, though they’re special to God, they’re no more special than members of any other religion – or people with no religion. Like children they’re afraid that if someone else is special, they aren’t. They feel the need to prove over and over that their religion is best and thus, they’re God’s favorites. Of course, the dark truth behind this exercise is the belief that the special ones have first claim on God’s attention and gifts with the right to commandeer them should that claim be questioned. The whole idea would be merely childish were it not for this veiled (or not so veiled) assumption.
A mother’s assurance: I love you all the same but each one in a different way is never emotionally satisfying to a child. At some level it boils down to who gets to sit on mom’s lap and who gets the first cookie. In the world of religion it’s who gets to claim God is on our side; God told us His mind and you must think as we think; God wants us in control, not you.
It was a dangerous thing for the bishops at the Second Vatican Council to acknowledge God’s Spirit at work in all religions and all people who try to make life better. They made it impossible for Catholics to back away from a conversation with other religions. We can not justify refusing to honor and learn from their experience of God.
Discovering others’ specialness is the beginning of a life-long journey to humility and community. It ends the illusion of control over one’s parent – or one’s God. It shines a light on the mystery of love – human and divine. It’s a painful, wonderful lesson that takes a lifetime.