“It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you.”

These are the words that kind of jumped off the page for me as I was sitting with and praying with this weekend’s Gospel passage… these words of Jesus:

“It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you.”

And we come to this reality, don’t we?

If it was purely up to my own choice — if it was totally up to my own little personal individual decision — I wouldn’t be here right now.

On a silly and superficial level, many of you know that I was on vacation last week down in Florida riding lots and lots of roller coasters. I rode SO MANY roller coasters.

Guys… I walked like 40 miles at theme parks. That’s what my iPhone said anyways.

And ya know, if it was up to my own choice, there’s some little corner of my heart where if I could choose… I would still be down in Florida riding roller coasters. Ok?

As much as I love the Mass! As much as I love being here with you guys. As much as I love you… there’s still some of my heart that’s like: “Yeah, if I had a choice, I’d be on a roller coaster right now.”

But then like on a much much deeper, more serious level: 

If it was up to my own choice:

    • I wouldn’t be a Christian. If it was totally, purely up to me. Without any help at all: I wouldn’t be a Christian.
    • In fact I wouldn’t be a Catholic…
    • And I certainly wouldn’t be a priest…if it was totally completely up to my own decision.

The truth is: if I was left to my own devices, I would 100% choose a life of sin. I’d be totally and utterly lost: “But for the grace of God, there go I.”

And you know what, this is true for all of us —

We are only here at church because the Father has drawn us — Because Jesus has chosen us — and because the Holy Spirit has been given to us.

The Trinity. 

God is love…That’s what we mean when we say that. This COMMUNION of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit… three Divine Persons loving each other for all eternity.

On our own, we would choose darkness… 

We would choose the wrong kind of fruit…

That’s what we did in the Garden, right? In Adam and Eve. We chose the wrong kind of fruit. And we still suffer this. We still do this so often!

This is called “concupiscence.” It’s one of those really really ANNOYING lingering effects of original sin… it’s that downward draw… that earthward pull towards all the various worldly and spiritually dead stuff that leads us away from God, away from Christ, and away from holiness…

For example, I think we all know that it’s way easier to let the gossip flow than to put a stop to it or say nothing at all.

It’s way easier for us to eat too much or drink too much than to have the proper amount and then just stop…

It’s way easier for us to keep on scrolling and wasting hours upon hours than to just set the stupid phone down, right?

It’s easier to blow up, overreact, and then harbor resentment than to respond calmly and patiently to the people who get on our nerves…

It’s way easier to just go ahead and skip our daily prayer than to show up, even when we don’t feel like it… and even when we’re BUSY.


Yep, when it boils down to it: Left to ourselves, that’s what we’d choose. We would choose NOT-God if it was all up to us.

But then Jesus comes along and says: “Yeah, you didn’t choose Me — but here’s the thing: I already chose you. I’ve already chosen you and I have appointed you… to go and bear fruit. Fruit that will remain not in just this life… but forever!”

This changes the game. It makes no sense. It flips the whole thing upside down… The Lord chooses the people who wouldn’t choose Him? Who would reject Him? Who would end up crucifying Him????

Our second reading from the First Letter of John puts this amazing and beautiful truth perfectly: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins.”

Bottom line:

We are not Christians because we love God.

We are Christians because God loves us.

That’s the only explanation we need.

We only have the privilege of being at Mass right now because from the depths of His mercy, Jesus decided to choose sinners.

He chose to come and love the people who were once His enemies — that’s you and me! — He chose to convert those enemies… instead of zapping them and blasting them into oblivion and smiting them… He chose instead to come and convert those enemies BY HIS GRACE into His closest of friends by laying down His life for us on the Cross.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

We didn’t choose that. We would never have dreamt any of that up.

It’s all grace.

It’s all the Lord’s doing… It is all a free gift.

SO LET’S PRAY THIS TOGETHER: “Jesus, thank you for choosing me, even though I wouldn’t have chosen You.

The challenge for us, now — is, by His grace, to choose Jesus back. 

To freely RESPOND.

How are we going to respond to Jesus’ choice?

You are already chosen.

Will you choose Him in return?

Now before you answer that, I will warn you that to choose Jesus often means choosing the hardest route.

It means going against the grain. 

It means going uphill.

It means dying to self. 

It means embracing a Cross you’d probably rather not carry

It means loving people who are very very difficult to love at times.

It means choosing things that you ordinarily wouldn’t choose…

It means saying and believing things that everyone else will probably think is pretty crazy.

I mentioned at the start of this homily that I wouldn’t have chosen to be a priest if it was simply up to me… Sometimes (it’s pretty funny when this happens) I still look in the mirror when I’m wearing vestments and I’m shocked… It’s like: WOAH WHO IS THAT?

But I know that my vocation was the fruit of (by grace) choosing Jesus.

I came to the point in my relationship with the Lord that I knew I couldn’t continue being His friend without stepping into this life — without becoming one of His priests…

I was just speaking with some married folks from our parish, and they said that they’ve experienced something like this as well in their own vocation.

When a young couple first gets married, they have NO IDEA really what they’re signing up for. 

Now hopefully we’ve given them enough marriage prep to realize that you are making a lifelong, permanent, faithful, fruitful open-to-life commitment to ONE person, till death do they part.

You know that you are CHOOSING that person for better or for worse, richer or poorer… but then after that day is over, you end up realizing that you chose all sorts of other things that you didn’t know necessarily that you were choosing.

You didn’t get to choose how many kids you have.

You didn’t get to choose your spouses hang-ups and their sins.

You didn’t get to choose what sorts of things you would argue about.

You didn’t get to choose the sicknesses and the trials you face together.

Again, Jesus’ words ring very true here: “It was not you who chose Me, but I who chose you.”

And so how do we choose Jesus back? How does that actually happen?

If… left to our own devices… we wouldn’t choose Him or His plan for our life, what is it that enables us — What empowers us to choose Jesus, who has already chosen us?

The answer is in our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles.

“While Peter was still speaking,” we read, “the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the word.”

The Holy Spirit FELL upon them just like it fell upon the disciples at Pentecost.

These were Gentile believers. The first disciples at that time still didn’t quite know what to do with non-Jewish Christians — and yet here St. Peter sees that the Holy Spirit — the power of God, the LOVE of God is falling upon the Gentiles… unbaptized people… in the same way that happened to them at Pentecost!

And so Peter is blown away by this. He is awestruck. He realizes: 

Wow! … “God has chosen the Gentiles as well! In truth, I see that God shows no partiality. Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit even as we have?”

That’s the answer. That’s how we choose Jesus. We choose Him by the power of the Holy Spirit in us.

We can only choose Jesus because the Holy Spirit empowers us to do so! We can only love God “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit.” 

“In this is love, not that we’ve loved, but that God has loved us.”

…He’s poured His love into us.

He’s poured His Holy Spirit into us.

Now we walk in the Spirit!

So it’s by the Holy Spirit that we can forgive.

It’s by the Holy Spirit that we can serve.

It’s by the Holy Spirit that we lay down our lives.

He INSPIRES US to do that, to surrender to Him, to say YES to His plan for our lives! The Holy Spirit fills us with the capacity to LOVE as Christ loves…

Jesus says: “Love one another as I have loved you.” 

How on EARTH are we supposed to love like that? Left to ourselves it’s impossible.

LET’S PRAY THIS TOGETHER: “Come Holy Spirit… fill me now… FALL ON ME NOW…so that I can love as Jesus loves.”


Praise God.

I’ll end with this.

The person who shows us best of all how to choose Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose name we honor in a very very special way during this month of May.

Tradition calls our Blessed Mother the “Spouse of the Holy Spirit.” … the Spouse of this power that empowers us to love as God loves.

Why do we say that she’s the Spouse of the Holy Spirit? Well — because at the Annunciation, we learn that the Holy Spirit comes and overshadows her… she offers that perfect YES to God’s plan for her life:

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done unto me according to Your will.”

And the POWER of the Holy Spirit comes and He fills her so perfectly that the Word becomes flesh within her womb. The God who IS love, comes and dwells within her.

And so Mother Mary, we ask you to come and help us to be so open to the grace of the Holy Spirit that Jesus might be formed within us as well. Teach us to be so receptive to the Spirit that we can say YES to Him. 

…That we can CHOOSE Him who first chose us.