The vilification of other people in other lands, the maintenance of prejudice and racial discrimination, the perpetuation of inequality in pay and social standing for women, the continued prohibition of certain civil rights for all — these are just some of the ways in which we struggle as a nation against God’s Will for inclusivity and recognition of as equal in the sight of their Creator.
Perhaps the Second Reading from the Letter to the Hebrews (12:5-7, 11-13) sets you on edge.
Jesus warned of the inevitable division that would arise in the lives of those who would risk being the prophets God had called them to be. Jesus is redirecting the focus of the questioner and his other hearers (including us) away from what teachers often refer to as “stupid questions.” The curious (or perhaps cunning) person who posed this question basically asks the wrong question, so Jesus proceeds to respond the answer to the Instead of being concerned with “who is in” and “who is out” those who follow in the footprints of Christ should be concerned with rising to the challenges of discipleship we are sure to encounter throughout our lives.Today we hear something of an affirmation that there are challenges ahead, but challenges that we should indeed embrace and that will come to their peaceful, fruitful, and just end eventually. Finally, for those who pay close attention to the readings, the Gospel could make us uncomfortable for several reasons. It is like looking at two ways to enter a location — one is wide and easy and filled with the mob of those unwilling or unable to embrace the cross of discipleship, and the other is narrow and more difficult.First of all, Jesus seems to do something that is commonplace in my experience of human nature and something that I’m sure frustrates a whole host of other people. Jesus says that we should not focus simply on the “end” (that is, who is “in” or “out”), but instead focus our attention on the “means” (that is, doing what is right even when it is difficult)!If the readings for this Sunday make you uncomfortable, then good. There are several reasons why you might be unsettled by the selections from Sacred Scripture that are proclaimed to us on this twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time.The first reason comes from the First Reading, taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (Is 66: 18-21).
The original hearers of this prophetic speech would have also been made to feel uncomfortable, and for good reason.
Thus says the LORD: I know their works and their thoughts, and I come to gather nations of every language; …They shall bring all your brothers and sisters from all the nations as an offering to the LORD The chosen people of God might have been unhappy to hear about how God’s desire is for all nations to come together, that the “people of God” — a favored term of the Second Vatican Council Fathers for the whole church — extended far beyond that of the community of Israel.
If one cannot be separate, apart, holy in the literally sense — then what makes one special?
Yet, this is God’s desire and plan and vision of reality: all of God’s creation, every human person is a son or daughter, and therefore a brother and sister to each other.
There might be times when it is more difficult than others for us to appreciate this about individuals or groups of people that we have come to dislike for a variety of reasons, but God’s wisdom insists that this is for us to overcome and that it is not God’s intention that we be divided.
This is indeed a hard truth, just as much for us today in the United States in 2013 as it was for the Israelites thousands of years earlier.