My friends, as I indicated in the bulletin for this week, the tone of today’s readings is somewhat “threatening,” but that we can still, “hope,” because that seemingly, threatening tone is basically calling us to become our best. Our God, through Jesus, and the other prophets—today, Isaiah, is asking, as any good parent would, that we will live our lives in “fullness”—not just for ourselves, but for others too. And when we are in need of “reprimand,” God, as any good parent, will give it.
The truth is my friends, the message of these readings is something that we truly, “have to get right!” Our brother Jesus, probably more than any other spiritual being living out their human experience, realized how living in “fullness,” can, at times, be most difficult. He says in today’s gospel from Luke, “try to come in through the narrow door.” To me, this simply says, that being our best will not be easy. It won’t be easy because sometimes the very people that we are called to love, drive us absolutely, crazy!
Jesus our brother, came among us to show us the way, the truth, and that which would give us true life. Humanity’s basic condition is to take care of ourselves. Now this is not to say that we aren’t capable of more—only that when tired, discouraged, frustrated, or simply selfish, caring for ourselves is the most natural and easiest thing to do.
Yet, our brother Jesus lets us know that one day the tally will be added up and those who have been last for most of their lives, will then be brought to the front of the line and the opposite is true as well.
Now, I am not saying that you should be “just” with the gifts in this life because it will pay off in the end, even if this may be the case—no; only that you will be living up to what is best in humanity and as a spiritual sister or brother of Jesus. And for me, at least, this is a more satisfying way to live.
Isaiah furthers the message that our God truly wants us to get when he says, “I am coming to gather the nations of every language.” The psalmist too, in 117 tells us to, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.” And the writer to the Hebrews seals the deal. “We are [all] God’s children.”
Now, you will notice that there is no exclusion in any of the quoted passages above. If our God does not exclude, why do we who claim to be religious or spiritual in any way? Why does our Catholic church, in its hierarchy claim to be, “the one true Church” when our inclusive God showed the Divine Face not only to us, in Jesus, but to the followers of Buddha, Mohammed, and the Great Spirit, to name just a few? Perhaps it might be because we have been satisfied to shape our God in too small of a box.
Why do we as a Church, in our hierarchy teach that “only certain body parts,” designate a call to service at our altars, to preach the Word, or to give pastoral mercy and care through the sacraments of our Church? Why does this same hierarchy claim that “love is love” and “commitment in marriage” is only valid for heterosexual couples? Why does the hierarchical Church teach us to mistrust and deny the sexual identity that people claim for themselves when our God made the differences to show the expansiveness of our great God? The writer to the Hebrews seems to give us a piece of the hurtful truth, saying that, “suffering [will be] part of [our] training. To me, this says, we must rise above our human tendency to be, “black and white” when our God loves in technicolor.
Friends, I would like to end these thoughts by sharing parts of an article included in Sojourner Magazine this week by Adam Russell Taylor, entitled, Offering Lament and Thanksgiving for the Inflation Reduction Act. It struck me, as I feel it did the author, that the Congress was truly capable of so much more in face of the fact that nearly 9 in 10 claims to be Christian and voted against even the pared-down measures from the original, Build Back Better initiative of the Biden administration.
So, the bitter and the sweet. Because I choose to “look up” more than, “look down,” as a rule, first the “sweet:” the bill that passed includes the largest investment Congress has passed to date to combat climate change, it will lower health care and drug costs, and this bill will be paid for by taxing large corporations and wealthy individuals to pay closer to their fair share.
“The bitter:” In order to get the above, much of the vision of the original bill had to be cut out—a vision significantly shaped by the Congressional Black Caucus, creating an economy in which all American families would better be able to flourish—such things as renewing the Child Tax Credit, medical leave, child care, pre-K education, housing assistance, maternal health and more.
And Jesus’ words must yet again ring for those in positions of leadership in Congress, “the last will [one day] be first!” and we must remember that the opposite is true as well! It seems to have always been so and thus, the lament. The author tells us too, to be thankful for the good this Congress did manage to give us.
My personal prayer is that we would, as a country care as much for the down-trodden among us as we do for those with enough—that seems to be the message of today’s Scriptures and one that this Congress take seriously if they continue to claim, “Christianity” in their lives. Amen? Amen!