You’re so special
The first reading (Genesis 12:1-4a) presents us with God’s call to Abraham. This is a key beginning point in salvation history, for this is the beginning of God’s special relationship with a particular person and with the people who would be his descendants: a relationship that continues to this day and a relationship within which God’s definitive presence and action would take place in the person of Jesus Christ.
St. Paul speaks beautifully of this presence and action of God in today’s second reading (2 Timothy 1:8b-10):
He saved us and called us to a holy life,
not according to our works
but according to his own design
and the grace bestowed on us in Christ Jesus
before time began,
but now made manifest
through the appearance of our savior Christ Jesus,
who destroyed death and brought life and immortality
to light through the gospel.
The manifestation of that grace is powerfully depicted in the account of the Transfiguration in today’s Gospel (Matthew 17:1-9): the greatest of mountaintop experiences, taking place in the middle of Christ’s earthly ministry, which is itself the central act of salvation history.
Our Lord has specially chosen three people to witness this glorious moment: Peter, James, and John. Peter would speak for them all when he said: Lord, it is good that we are here.
The idea that some people are specially chosen by God offends some other people’s sense of egalitarianism, but Scripture is also clear that God is opposed to partiality, as Peter himself (one of the most special ones) would later say:
And Peter opened his mouth and said:
"Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality,
but in every nation anyone who fears him
and does what is right
is acceptable to him."
(Acts 10:34-35; cf Romans 2:11; Sirach 35:12c-13)
Indeed, even in the call of the single man Abraham, we see that the “special” selection and “special” vocation given to Abraham will be a means of blessings for all peoples.
All the communities of the earth
shall find blessing in you.
Likewise, the men specially chosen by Christ to witness his Transfiguration (and later to witness his Agony in the Garden – Matthew 26:37) would be commissioned by Christ to be instruments of his word and grace to all nations (Matthew 28:19).
The doctrine of Apostolic Succession is a concrete reminder of this reality, manifested in a special way in the line of the Bishops of Rome, from Peter himself and his immediate successor Linus all the way to John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The men particularly chosen by Christ, God’s Anointed One and only Son, would speak and minister in Christ’s name to particular people in many places and some of them would be in turn particularly chosen to speak and minister in Christ’s name, and so on down through the millennia to that nervous Assistant Pastor preaching today at his first parish assignment.
We are connected at many points into God’s web of specialness that spans all time zones and all centuries.
We are also connected specially and uniquely to God in our lives of private prayer.
It sounds trite, but it is true. You are special and I am special in the eyes of God and in the sweep of salvation history.
As we continue through this journey of Lent, may God give us the grace to recognize more clearly and to follow more faithfully all the special work of charity and truth that he calls us to live.