In our monastic tradition, one of the marks of perfected love is to love all people equally. Thus, Saint Benedict warns the abbot against any form of favoritism—at least that based on more superficial and worldly criteria. God too, is sometimes described as not showing partiality, with Deuteronomy declaring that the Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, has no favorites and accepts no bribes. Saint Paul too affirms this impressing upon the Romans, that there is no partiality with God. We also know, however, of several texts that would suggest the opposite with, for example, the same Paul quoting the Prophet Malachi in which God states, Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.
And what of Jesus? The Fourth Gospel repeatedly refers to its purported author as the one whom Jesus loved. This same disciple (believed to be John) along with Peter and James are chosen by Jesus from among The Twelve to be the privileged witnesses of his transfiguration—the same three disciples would be sole witnesses to his agony in Gethsemane. Why were these three chosen and not the other nine? Was this mere favoritism and a very real instance of partiality? When the other nine eventually heard of this amazing event to which they were not invited, were they upset, envious, and jealous of Peter, James, and John?
And what of us? Reading the lives of many famous saints, we can perhaps experience disappointment and envy for what seems to have been a favoritism when it comes to the bestowal of seemingly exceptional grace and privileges that appear to be denied us. Perhaps you have longed for something like a Mount Tabor experience to bolster a faltering faith and reignite zeal and renewed spiritual effort. Even among ourselves, we can sometimes envy the graces that some seem to receive so freely while we struggle on in the darkness and dryness that seem devoid of grace and any obvious sign of God’s love and care for us.
There are no easy answers to these perennial but important questions. Although we need to guard against an overly utilitarian function for God’s choices and bestowal of grace, it is true that God’s eternal, loving, and saving plan for humankind always lies at the heart of his choices in regard to us. In addition, his saving plan is not only for the mass of humankind but also for each one of us individually. And since we don’t even understand our own salvific journey and the way God is leading us to salvation, how can we possibly grasp his plan when it comes to universal salvation and the consummation of all things in Christ?
This is not to suggest that we cease asking questions relating to this issue of apparent favoritism, but it is to encourage us to trust God’s wisdom and ultimate plan both for us as individuals and as the human race. We do know that no one is ever deprived of all grace and, indeed, we are often not aware of much of the grace that God showers upon us at every moment—even, and perhaps especially, during times of darkness and seeming abandonment. Therefore, let us resist the temptation to envy those who seem to be more favored by God and trust that he is giving us all what is best for salvation and the attainment of eternal happiness with him. And so we proclaim with Saint Paul, that if God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for us all, how will he not also give us everything else along with him?