Believe it or not, by the happy co-incidence of the Lectionary cycles, we read the exact same gospel reading at Holy Mass today and a week from Sunday. So I can give you a homily on it then.
Let’s just focus for one tiny moment on these words of Scripture. The holy prophet addresses us with an exhortation to consider reality realistically:
It was not because you are the largest of all nations
that the LORD set his heart on you and chose you,
for you are really the smallest of all nations. (Deuteronomy 7:7)
“The smallest of all nations.” Now, not to get persnickety with the Bible or anything, but statistics show us that our Holy Mother Church actually has more members than many nations have in their populations. The Catholic Church has more people than the Netherlands and Belgium put together, to be sure.
But that’s not really the point. The prophet means something else by infallibly declaring to the Church that we are the smallest of all nations.
Maybe you remember that we once considered this question together: Why does the Lord love us?
Does He love us for our good looks? For our many achievements and splendid exploits, frequently chronicled on tv? Does He look at how well we cook, or how well we drive, or how well we play cards, or tennis—did He see all that, from heaven, and then fall in love with us, because we are so charming and wonderful?
Did He see us excelling in virtue, making Hercules of old look like a piker, while we tear up Insanity workouts daily, and shimmer with perfect honesty and generosity and prudence and a sensible diet—did He see all this from His heavenly perch, and then say to Himself, ‘Well, gosh! What a lovable group of people these human people are, how can I help Myself but love them?’
Well, no. Negative. That’s not how it happened.
Not being great—being pathetic little lumps of clay that sometimes can’t even manage to tie our own shoelaces properly, who often turn left when all the signs clearly read, ‘Danger ahead! Turn right immediately’—being small-brained, small-hearted, whiny, petulant, little nincompoops—being all this and less, we receive the free and all-conquering love of God.
He loves the morally, spiritually, and psychologically bankrupt. And then He makes us beautiful and interesting and worthwhile. He loves the small into greatness. That’s the way He is.