Paul says God chooses and destines us according to that purpose. Sometimes it surprises people to hear that Catholics believe in predestination. But we do. Everything that happens pertains to God's eternal plan. "He chose us in Christ before the world began," says Paul, "In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus."
Now, we need to understand that predestination somehow includes human freedom. We cannot blame God for our sins - the long history of human cruelty and betrayal belongs to us. Predestination means that God takes into account even our sins in order to achieve his eternal purpose.
President Abraham Lincoln made a powerful statement about God's purpose, his judgments. After four years of civil war, people were asking: If God is so wise, so benevolent, how could he allow this to happen? When war's end seemed near, Lincoln spoke these words: "Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away." Then he adds, "Yet if God wills that it continues... until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'".
I remember listening to a man whose relatives died in the Holocaust. The interviewer asked how he could avoid bitterness. He drew a deep breath and replied softly, "as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said 'the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether'".
Now, I admit it's easier to imagine we are part of a random, meaningless universe. And certainly more comfortable to think there is no right or wrong, no true or false, no good or evil - and therefore, no judgment. While that view seems attractive, those who hold it are quite ready to judge. Think about how much of our ordinary conversations involve criticizing, blaming and judging others! As Christians we should avoid judging because we know we will be judged by the same measure we judge others. On the final day we will stand before God and we will realize "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether".
We see it in today's Gospel as Jesus sends out disciples with authority over unclean spirits. Evil doesn't have the last word. St. Paul tells us that in spite of the tragedies of life, we have hope because of Christ. We are part of the plan God mapped out from the beginning.
This understanding brings peace. Last year my friend Fr. Jim Lee was diagnosed with ALS - Lou Gehrig's disease. Fr. Jim had a habit of responding "I am blessed," when people ask, "how are you?" Telling his parishioners about the diagnosis, he spoke about living one day at time, his desire to continue serving and to die surrounded by parishioners, Fr. Jim concluded, "I am blessed."
You and I can have peace, even gratitude, when we recognize that although our lives seem chaotic, what appears random really is part of bigger plan. The parts fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
Scientist tells us that in order to make life possible certain variables had to be set in the first micro second of time. I'll leave that discussion to physicists. From the Bible we know that God is equally present to each moment of time. God sees the end of the world in the same glance he sees the beginning as well as this present moment. Living in an eternal now, God can take into account our prayers - including the ones we offer during this Mass.
God chooses and predestines us. He does not take away our freedom and responsibility, but can even use our mistakes and sins to bring about his purpose. We'll see more as we continue with Paul's brilliant letter to the Ephesians. This is only the first of seven selections. Today let's take home this, "He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. In love he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus." Amen.