Today’s first scripture, an excerpt from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy, identifies the Israelites as set apart by God for a mission.
Moses makes it clear: Being chosen by God is not about privileges and exemptions, but about mission, a mission that necessitates the acceptance of a new way of life. Through this new way of life the world will learn about the Israelites’ unique relationship with the Lord and be inspired to accept the one, true God as their God, and with this acceptance, come to live in the manner that the Israelites live.
The mission of the Israelites is lure other people to know God, and in coming to know God, choose to love and to serve him. The invitation to know God is expressed through their way of life. Thus, if the Israelites do not live in a manner that introduces people to God and invites them to know, love and serve him, they are not accomplishing their mission.
What is true for the Israelites is true for the Church.
The Church is the visible, tangible sign of Christ’s life and presence in the world. In fact, the Church, contrary to some who construe the Church as being little more than an institution, is the extension of the Incarnation of God in Christ throughout space and time, throughout history. Through the Church people come to know God in Christ, and by knowing him, are invited to love and serve him.
Thus, the Church is always a public reality- the Church is a way of life that presents itself in the world through worship and works of mercy and these activities of the Church, signifiers of our way of life are meant to be public, within culture and challenging culture, supporting culture and changing culture. The Church is not meant as a retreat from the world, but it is meant to be out in the world.
Though out in the world, the Church is not meant to be worldly, providing divine sanction for whatever the culture proposes or values. Instead, the Church is meant to always be boldly herself, unique in her way of life, and through her unique way of life, always be an invitation to know, love and serve Christ.
Because the Church presents a unique way of life, what Christians say and do, how we live, will confound the expectations of the world.
This is what Christ intends for us to understand in his Gospel.
Christ’s expectations of us are not ordinary, but extraordinary. Living as a Christian means that more will be expected of us, not less.
In other words, friendship with Jesus Christ is not to be construed by the Christian in the worldly way that some people cultivate relationships with powerful people so that they can get favors and special treatment. Instead, friendship with Jesus Christ sets us apart as a people who rather than trying to manipulate Christ for our benefit, are trying to imitate his love for God and for our neighbor.
Being ever more Christ-like is what the Christian way of life is about, through our imitation of Christ’s love for God and neighbor we seek to become for others a route of access to him, an introduction to Jesus, a way of making him known.
It is through our sincere attempts to imitate the love of God in Christ in all its audacity and strangeness that we fulfill our mission and become the people God has chosen us to be.