Come In
20th Sunday of the Year (A)

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

All the three readings this Sunday converge on the theme of inclusion. Inclusion is inviting an outsider or a stranger into the circle. Many of us may have experienced during our childhood the joy of being invited into the games. The stranger in the neighborhood lingers around, waiting for the time when somebody notices her and invites her to enter the group. Sometimes we may have experienced being rejected and being kept outside the circle.

Action starter: Speak words of calmness and peace.

In the first reading, the foreigner who joins himself to the Lord by observing what is right and doing what is just is brought to the Lord’s holy mountain or holy presence (Isaiah 56:1-7). In the second reading, Paul calls himself an apostle of the Gentiles. Paul saw his mission as that of inviting those who are considered outsiders (Rom. 11:13). The Gospel tells the story of the Canaanite woman. Because of their historical experiences with these people, the Canaanites were avoided by the Jews for being idolaters and sinners. This woman however expressed her faith in Jesus, “Lord Son of David, have pity on me” (Mt. 15:21). Due to her persistence and her faith, the Lord Jesus granted her request for her daughter’s healing. She entered the circle of Jesus’ friends.

The human tendency to exclude is rooted in our desire to survive and our need for safety.

Exclusion is as old as human civilization. We can imagine primitive man seeking safety in the small circle of family and relatives. Later on the bigger circle of the tribe became the source of protection. The tribes grew into nations. The nations staked their territories and set up states. All of these groupings found safety in defining territories and boundaries. When necessary, alliances were made with other tribes and nations.

Even in our post-modern age of jet travel, everyone has to carry his passport wherever and whenever he goes around the world. Nations are very careful about who are given a visa to visit or work in their territory. Exclusivity is therefore a human tendency that served the purpose of safety and security. Some groups of people are more exclusive than others. Such fear of other people is called xenophobia. Jingoism is the word applied to extremely exclusivist national policies.

The scriptures however point to another way. The value of the Kingdom of God is that of inclusivity. Everyone is invited to be a citizen of the Kingdom. Jesus’ prayer is “that they may be one” – Ut unum sint. Instead of excluding people or branding them outsiders, the Gospel exhorts us to be brothers and sisters to one another. The family of God excludes no one. It is like a wedding banquet where even those from the highways and the byways are invited.

These past three weeks have awakened us to the fact that we are far from being a united people. Our divisions have once more led to open armed conflict. People have died, lost their homes, and are displaced. Old animosities and prejudices are once more kindled. We again retreat behind the walls of our tribe, religion, and nation. It may not be so much because of ill will on anybody’s part. Rather, it could be because in this real world we have to deal with historical interpretations, experiences in the past and present, personalities, limitations of communication, interest groups, and a host of other factors.

We all desire to live in peace and harmony. We all desire to be recognized, respected, and heard. We want our place under the sun. Hopefully, we go back to building bridges rather than building walls.