God doesn't have favourites

POST BY PGallagher

Fluorescent cross in Liverpool

The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites.

The life’s work of each of us is to prepare ourselves for eternal life with God.  We are to be happy forever in God’s company. The grace of God prepares us for that heavenly happiness in many different ways.  It helps that we are disciples of Christ.  We are helped also by the Sacraments, the Scripture and the teaching of the Church.  Another help is that we live in a community of those who believe. We support each other. God helps us through our brothers and sisters to practice our faith and to be of service to them and to others.  Might we think of ourselves as favoured by God by our being given these advantages?  We are certainly grateful for what we have received.  We give thanks for our knowledge of God, for our connection with Him and for our capacity to pray and to serve. These are the best things about us and they are gifts from God. 

It may be that we sometimes find our Christian life onerous. You did not choose me but I chose you.  The spiritual fruitfulness which is required of us demands fidelity and devotion.  These are not easy to achieve even with God’s abundant help. I commissioned you to go out and to bear fruit, fruit that will last. The Lord’s new commandment of love, like all the commandments, can be difficult to keep. What I command you is to love one another.   Confronted by our own frailty and by the long history of our resistance to grace we can catch ourselves wishing that we had never been so fortunate as to have so much expected of us. Will we have been unduly favoured if we arrive at the brink of eternity with a deep, lived understanding of the teaching of Christ?  If God judges us ready for His company for all the ages must we first be His favourite?  If holiness is God’s favouritism, then it is a selection which brings great challenges.  To be God’s holy favourite is to live happy with His many demands as well as grateful for His abundant grace. Divine favouritism, if there is such a thing, might show itself in great suffering and in many troubles.  Only under such burdens (we can find ourselves supposing) does virtue flourish, does holiness grow and does closeness to God become completely natural.  Are God’s favourites those saints who had the toughest life and death? Are our brothers and sisters who are suffering the most also divine favourites because in their difficult conditions they have the materials for sanctity?

The truth I have now come to realise is that God does not have favourites.  The non-favouritism of God is to preside lovingly over a Providence in which each one must make her or his own way into the Kingdom.  We follow that path obedient to the divine will and responsive to God’s gracious help. In our sincere gratitude for our blessings we also gather strength for the difficulties.  In our humble acknowledgement of our spiritual advantages we also confess they are building us up for testing and even for suffering.  Such wise preparation is in our prayer, in our grateful reception of the sacraments and in the charitable service of others to which we are directed by the Holy Spirit.  Full of hope, we brace ourselves for troubles to come.  Full of trust, we ask for God’s help for what will surely sometimes be very difficult.  Full of joy, we resolve not be cast down by what befalls us.  Our endurance at the moment of truth is far from assured.  Our serenity is continually under threat! We seek God’s support to be ready for the challenge which will one day surely come to us and may already have arrived.

Lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil we pray as Jesus taught us.  We are not seeking a crisis.  We are not searching for a fight or a challenge.  We have plenty to do in the meantime as we allow ourselves to be trained by God in the complete and generous practice of our faith.  It may be that the test will be for us only the accumulation of the daily scrutinies. Do we pray?  Do we hold ourselves apart from wrongs that are being done? Do we love the unlovable who cross our path? will we live through, with and in the Body of Christ, allowing our sacramental life to merge with every other corner of our existence, especially our care of the weak? It could seem that there is a mild favouritism in our even being enabled to ask these questions of ourselves. Yet is it not the case that one way or another these questions are put to everyone?  Even those who fear God and do what is right without knowing that that is what they are doing have heard the challenge and risen to it.

Jesus said: I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete.   The delight and satisfaction promised us by the Lord seem far away from the fears which may exercise us not only about our own fragility but also about terrorism, injustice and all the cruelty that there is in the world. We are greatly distressed that great countries are torn apart by war.  Beautiful lives are being spoiled by violence and hatred.  The promises of Christ will be fulfilled not despite the worst things which go on in the world and in our own life but because the love of God breaks through evil to strengthen us and help us and build us precisely where there seems no other hope.   When there is no one else in whom to trust we trust God.  In the great difficulties we turn to Him.  He alone can help us. In response to our prayer for mercy, the God who has no favourites responds with mercy. Then He humbly asks the favour of us that we observe His new Law: Remain in my love He requests of us, empowering us to do so. The Lord adds lovingly If you keep my commandments you will remain in my love.  In this, He is not imposing a condition on our receiving His help but showing us how to love as He wishes us to do.  ‘Remain in love’, ‘observe God’s laws’, ‘bear fruit that will last’, and ‘complete your joy’.

Peter Gallagher SJ