Consider your own calling, brothers and sisters. Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.
Rather, God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong, and God chose the lowly and despised of the world, those who count for nothing, to reduce to nothing those who are something, so that no human being might boast before God.
Yesterday we heard Saint Paul explain the mystery of the cross as a scandal to the pious and nonsense to the worldly wise, today's selection immediately follows that passage as the Apostle considers our place in God's plan.
"Let's face it, people! You are not exactly the creme de la creme! You're not even the pick of the litter!" he might have said in Americanese.
We often reflect on the sorry bunch of disciples that Jesus elected to follow him -- fishermen, tax collectors, subversives -- and on his humble origins among the poor and the outcast.
The Old Testament reveals God's predilection for the weaker and the seconds. He preferred Abel the shepherd over Cain the hunter, and Jacob the momma's boy over Esau, daddy's favorite. David was the least promising of all Jesse's sons.
The religious might prefer the traditional elite and the wise would certainly choose the stronger and smarter, but God often prefers the world's overlooked. There is logic to this, of course -- thus to show God's glory!
How fitting it was that Saint Paul should arrive in Rome as a prisoner in chains! There was no triumphal entry for the Gospel. During the first decades of the twentieth century, the founders of American Pentecostalism travelled by rail -- that is, by box car and tie rod! -- to spread the good news.
It's easy to be discouraged by the failures of the Church. We are way too human for most tastes. Even our best efforts to market our product end in disaster, as when the successful preacher is found in bed with his assistant's wife.
But schooled in the cross we continue undaunted. Our faith is deeper than our wisdom; our conviction, firmer than our piety.
Here is a second thought; it came to me with the word place. In our sacred liturgy we find our place in God's sight. Through baptism and eucharist, especially, we know where we belong, despite any misgivings about our putative worthiness.
When I grew up, the oldest of ten children, I had a very definite place at the table. With Dad at the head of the table and Mom at the other end, I was placed halfway between. With my long arms I could move bowls and platter and pitchers from one end to the other better than anyone! That was my place and it went unchallenged, like Dad's and Mom's. Everyone else also had his and her place at the table.
There is great comfort in knowing one's place, even if it's the lowest.