Saints of God the Lord be with you!
Years ago, when I was starting my theological studies, one of my professors said that we can see “the other, the stranger,” as either a gift or a threat. It seems to me that the authors of all three readings this weekend are writing about the struggle in making that distinction, with them all coming to the same conclusion.
Isaiah (56:1, 6-7) writes that the Lord told him to “observe what is right, do what is just” not for his fellow Jews but to the foreigners that live within the borders of Israel. Not just the Temple building located in Jerusalem, but the Temple that all of Israel was supposed to be, “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” What a vision God had? Too bad the people of Isaiah’s day didn’t cooperate to fulfill it.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans (11:13-15, 29-32) is writing to a church composed of Jews and Gentiles. Paul is warning the Gentiles not to be smug that God has called them, while many of the Jews have rejected the Messiahship of Jesus. He writes, “God delivered all to disobedience that he might have mercy upon all.”
Jesus to seems to struggle when confronted with a Canaanite woman with a demon-tormented daughter (Matthew 15:21-28). For a while, He seems trapped by cultural prejudices, not to mention the strict norms of gender and religion. Unfortunately, His initial reaction is supported by the disciples. However, the persistent faith, courage, and love for her daughter win Jesus over, and her daughter is healed “from that hour.” I can’t help but think that this encounter led Him to a deeper understanding of His mission.
There seems to be a lot of fear in our society and Church to people that are not like us. Whether they have a different skin color, ascribe to a different religion, are a different sexual orientation or gender identity, it seems to me that the only way, the Gospel way, to interact with them is to remember that God has mercy upon all. Pope Francis calls us to live the “sacrament of encounter” particularly with people who are different from us. Judgement and condemnation are not what Christ calls us to. We are called to respond to those who are least like us with the same compassion Christ has towards us.
Peace and All Good,