Our school, Wauwatosa Catholic, starts up again this week. Please keep the staff and students in your prayers, that they may have a safe and productive year.
Make sure not to miss our Grass Mass (Mass in the courtyard) and luncheon, beginning at 10:30 on September 8th and invite relatives, friends, and/or neighbors who do not regularly attend church (free tickets will be available for these invited guests). Sometimes all people need is a personal invitation to begin to engage once more with their faith. This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to them.
Another well has been completed in Tanzania with our donations. Please visit our website for a letter written from Africa and pictures.
Our readings this weekend present another difficult challenge, a challenge to our inbred tribalism, by inviting us to be open to all people. Do we listen or are we closed, as were the Jewish people in the Bible?
In many places in the Old Testament, God explicitly told the Jewish people that He would call all nations. For example, Isaiah 2 has this statement: All nations shall stream toward (the mountain of the Lord). This weekend’s reading from the last chapter of Isaiah says, … I come to gather nations of every language; they shall come and see my glory. But the Jews could not get past thinking that they were the Chosen People to the exclusion of all others.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus say the following: And people will come from the east and the west and from the north and the south and will recline at table in the kingdom of God. Yet many Christian groups, including Catholics, have the tendency to believe that they are exclusively the “chosen people,” the “saved.” I was taught as a child that “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.”
I am a Catholic because our faith tradition can be traced back to the apostles. I believe it is true. Our beliefs and practices, especially the Eucharist, help me to grow in my ability to live Gospel values. But I don’t need to condemn and judge others; I can leave that to God. At the last judgment, we will not be asked, “were you Catholic?” but rather told, “when I was hungry….”
That same inbred tribalism leads to what is happening in our country and political world. It is comforting to think of our country as great or the best, etc. But when that leads to excluding other people, to racism, nativism, etc., etc., we are not living Gospel values. All people are God’s people, made in His image, and to live Gospel values, to be Christian as individuals and a nation, we must be open to helping those in need, even if they are not “of our group.”
Jesus summarizes this point well with the parable at the end of our Gospel this weekend. The master has closed the door, people are outside knocking, the master says he does not know where they are from, and they say, We ate and drank in your company and you taught in our streets. But he repeats his denial. Why? Because they didn’t follow His example. Today we would say, We were Catholic, we went to Mass on Sundays, we didn’t eat meat on Fridays in Lent, etc. But we risk denial if Jesus cannot say to us, For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me…
I invite us to reflect this week on how open we really are to people who are different. How much are we caught up in the rhetoric of division that is rampant in our country? Do we support openness with our speech, example, and actions? How can we be better agents of inclusion rather than division? And let us support each other in prayer.
-- Paul James Portland, SDS