jueves, 24 de agosto de 2017

All Are Welcome!

Sem. Ian Granada

In a world full of uncertainty and exclusivity, we are barraged with stories of terrorism, discrimination, and violence due to religion, color, or ethnicity in our evening news daily. The readings this Sunday gives hope and challenge for us to renew daily our personal relationship with God. God’s offer of salvation is not limited to any particular class or people. Moreover, salvation is not limited to a few or chosen but extends to all of creation as we are all children of the one Father in heaven.

I am reminded of this beautiful song by Marty Haugen, All are Welcome. It speaks of beautifully the theme of the readings this Sunday.

Let us build a house where love can dwell, and all can safely live, a place where saints and children tell how hearts learn to forgive. Built of hopes and dreams and visions, rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions. All are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place.

The theme of universality and salvation runs hand in hand our readings today. The First Reading recounts how the prophet Isaiah portrays salvation as not something bound to happen only in Israel. The exile in Babylon just ended; Israel is now allowed to go home to their homeland. However, the original homeland they knew is now teeming with foreigners who were exiles also. How can they serve and worship God amidst these foreigners? Isaiah tells them that salvation which they have known as exclusive is also possible with foreigners. If these foreigners will be faithful to the Covenant that began with Moses and pray as taught by God to Israel, then universal salvation and justice have met together as something viable! Indeed, God gathers us like a shepherd!

How are we to become a “house of prayer for all peoples” as Isaiah narrated is a mystery only God can answer. We will always find ourselves amidst a mix of cultures, race, and religions. As such, we are to respect, dialogue, and together find ways to unite with them instead labeling “them” and “us”. Our identity as Christians and as Catholics calls forth an attitude of tolerance and mercy to all. Despite our differences, we live the same struggles, joys, and aspirations as a human family which bridges our differences into one prayer of hope and unity for all of humanity!

The Responsorial Psalm continues the theme of universal salvation, “O God, let all the nations praise you!” A fully alive person who believes in God draws attention. Persons like Mother Theresa and Pope Francis affect non-Christians with the lifestyle and Faith they have in God! We are drawn to the lives of these holy people because we see God works in them and calls us to reflect also our own personal relationship with God. With the examples of holy people and our own progress in the life of holiness, we can see that God truly moves and saves all of creation. Indeed, we are in awe and wonder how God works!

The Second Reading from the letter to the Romans echoes the same message of salvation and justice. The revelation of Jesus as the Son of God; though refused by the Jews, still have a meaning in the universal salvation. The salvation that was initially tied with the covenant finds its fullness in Jesus Christ. Though refused by the Jews, it is now being offered to the Gentiles (us!) which hopefully will lead Israel as well to the realization of who Jesus truly is. Their previous covenant with God will remain constant and binding despite the refusal to see who Jesus is. God’s love is everlasting, we hope and pray that one day all will be one!

As recipients of such a great Faith through baptism, we share the same mercy offered to all. We cannot choose where the Holy Spirit blows. Let us be open like the apostle Paul, who believes that the same salvation we embraced and others have refused someday find fertile grounds where the seed of Faith in Christ will blossom and unite us together in one table!

We are Christians, we bear the name Christ but what is the meaning of such a title; our Faith in Jesus should be ready to give witness to that Faith we profess by mouth. A life patterned in Christ, a life living in Christ! How does my Faith in Jesus makes a difference in my lives?

The Gospel narrative shows Jesus travelling in some non-Jewish towns. As Jesus proclaimed the inauguration of the Kingdom of God by his deeds and words, we can see the dauntless faith of a Gentile who asked for help in Jesus. Interestingly, Jesus countered the plea for help by giving a metaphor that he needs to proclaim God’s kingdom to Israel first. The woman’s answer is witty as she used the same metaphor and adds the image of a dog that faithfully waits for the food that falls from the family’s table.

I really admire the Faith of the Canaanite woman! How brave and courageous! I am lead to ask also how I respond to God’s invitation to believe in Jesus as my Lord and Savior. Does my faith becomes relevant only during Sundays or whenever I’m only inside the church? Who is Jesus to me? How do I live my Faith conviction? How do we see people whose belief is different from ours? Do we consider them also as God’s children?

Let us pray this week for the grace of truly living our Faith like the Canaanite woman. A Faith that is anchored from a personal relationship with God, a Faith that is the foundation of one’s life, a Faith that pushes us to love and see others as God sees them. Salvation has arrived, change has arrived, and we are now redeemed by Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection!

As we profess our Faith, we are called to live it amidst the world which also seeks salvation from sin and death. May our humble lives and actions lead them to Jesus and together one day; worship God in ‘a house of prayer for all peoples.’

Let us build a house where all are named,
their songs and visions heard
and loved and treasured, taught and claimed
as words within the Word.
Built of tears and cries and laughter,
prayers of faith and songs of grace,
let this house proclaim from floor to rafter.
All are welcome, all are welcome,
all are welcome in this place.

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