Sunday, August 20, 2017

No Coincidences Here

I have come to believe that in the timing of our Scripture readings is by no means coincidental. There have been many a time where I have been struggling in dealing with personal issues, work issues, and even health issues in which I open my daily readings only to see a message from either the  Old Testament, Psalms, or New Testament that is crystal clear. Sometimes the message seems to be applicable to events around me, but in the case of today's readings it seems quite clear there is a message for our nation. It is not only given once, but four times.

Let us begin with the first reading from Isaiah. The author uses the word foreigners to describe those joining themselves to the Lord. There is no duplicity in the message. The passage ends with the writer describing a house that will be a house of prayer for all people. I imagine a church that upon review includes people of all races. I happen to live in an area that is reflective of that. However, our presiding priest today challenged us to look deep inside ourselves in wake of the Charlottesville tragedy. Where do we have prejudices that are not always evident. Are we reflective of this house that the Book of Isaiah describes?

Psalm 67 responsorial is "O God, let all the nations praise you." Once again a message of inclusivity. The Gospel message of love is not just for selected people it is for all. I know that it is quite easy to discriminate thinking that a certain group is selected to hold the Gospel truth, but somehow I don't think that would be Jesus' message.

Paul in the Letter to the Romans implores the Gentiles to follow the Gospel message. He utilizes the word mercy as God is merciful with those who once disobeyed and wandered away. The final sentence states " For God delivered all to disobedience that he might have mercy upon all. Once again the word all stands out.

Finally in the Gospel we encounter an Canaanite woman whose daughter is sick.  This woman was quite possibly of mixed heritage being from Sidon and Tyre. The woman was an outsider and is thus treated as so by the disciples as they tell Jesus to send her off. To know that the woman is considered a lesser person is important for two reasons. One being her gender in a society that was patriarchal,  but also as a foreigner there is a clear class division.  Jesus seems to be ignoring the woman the group continue their journey and following the suit of the disciples. But we must remember that God's ways are not our ways. After speaking exclusively of the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus does something that I imagine startles some. He replies to the woman who pleads with him for help using the metaphor of dogs eating scraps from table knowing that this woman would be by many considered a dog. The woman's faith in the power of someone she does not even know, but quite possibly has heard about is rewarded. What is for us to gain here?

Even in turbulent times such as what we are encountering in our nation and throughout the world we are asked to be faithful. Yes I would like many people to be fixed and would love to have an audience with God in which I could present such a list. But that once again would be my plan. God is a God of surprises, to borrow Gerard Hughes book title. In my own life I can reflect on numerous times God when I allow God to drive the car that I have been pleasantly rewarded by His mercy and grace. The very fact that I am writing this blog is one.  Going to God daily and praying for those who pursue the message of hate is important to me,  for without this exercise I know that I can become hateful as well interiorly. That is why Scripture is important for me.

The word of God does not have to be that booming authoritative voice emanating from heaven. It can be found in Scripture and nothing is more evident than that today amidst the violence that continues to divide out nation. The challenge becomes loving those whose purposeful intent is to spread hate and violence. We are a nation that is made up of many peoples, beliefs, and religions and as the readings today provide us we are all one.

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