Irish author James Joyce wrote in his book Finnegan’s Wake that being Catholic means “Here comes everybody!” In reflecting on the readings this week, we really do get a sense of God’s desire to bring everybody into the community and into the redemptive power of His Mercy.
The first reading and the Gospel lean on each other in a very particular way this Sunday. In the first reading that God declares of any ‘foreigner’ who comes seeking God and whose actions burn with a genuine love for God is welcome within the community and will receive the blessings of the community. The Gospel shows us what this looks like in action. We see Jesus extending the gifts of the Kingdom of God to someone who the Jews at the time would have considered an outsider. We see the actions of the Canaanite woman mirroring the description given in the first reading of the ‘foreigner’ who seeks God, and we see the fulfillment of the promise God makes in that first reading!
Another major theme in this week’s readings is the notion of ‘insiders’ and ‘outsiders:’ this is the idea that there are those who are on the ‘inside’ with God and those who are not. In the readings, this presents itself as a distinction between Jews and Gentiles. We see this at play in the first reading and the Gospel, but it is Paul who tackles this problem most directly. Paul writes of the interaction between the Jewish and Gentile communities he works with, suggesting that God uses the actions of one community as a way to extend love and mercy to the other, (and vice versa!) with the end result being both communities included in the family of God.
The connecting line through all of these readings is seeking God with an earnest heart and demonstrating that through our actions; in other words faith and good works are both necessary. Bishop Robert Barron has described God as a gathering force throughout creation, bringing his creatures together in unity and love. What we see in these scripture passages is God tearing down the thinking that simply because people are different, one group must be superior to another. All are welcome!
As part of your prayer and faith life this week, examine your life prayerfully for ways in which you might be able to gather people in with love or to speak out against someone being ostracized. Inviting someone lonely to dinner, striking up a conversation with someone of a different background, or even simply greeting someone new with a smile and ‘Hello and welcome!’ can be powerful ways of helping God bring people into our community. Conversely, standing up for someone being maltreated, learning about other communities and cultures, and praying for those who struggle to express God’s open invitation of love to those who are different are equally powerful ways to participate with God in breaking down divisions.
Near the end of the Apostle’s Creed, which we profess each week at Mass, we confess our belief in “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” Notice that the ‘catholic’ in that phrase is not capitalized; it comes from the Greek word καθολικός which means universal. In the Creed this word does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church, but rather to the whole assembly of believers who truly profess and act on what the Creed states. Let us therefore strive to be good Catholics by likewise being better at being catholic!
Peace and All Good,