In Sunday’s Second Reading, Paul heaps praise on the church in Thessalonika, calling them “a model for all believers.” For some reason, those words are holding me in their grip.
I find myself wondering if that could be said of my community, my parish, the groups to which I belong. By and large I would say yes, because I more than likely would not belong to any group or community whose values aren’t in line with my own. It is a joy to be with like-minded people who freely and happily do the work of the Kingdom. True, no community is perfect. As a group and as individuals we do sin. But somehow we support and help each other on the journey to heaven, and we try to include as many as possible in that journey.
It’s that inclusion which is so crucial. That’s why the Lord in the First Reading very specifically says: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien (read immigrant), widows, orphans, or the poor.” This is a command found not just in the Book of Exodus, but throughout the Old Testament, especially in the prophets.
It’s that inclusion which was so important to Jesus. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus gives the greatest of all commands: “Love God above all things.” But then he proceeds to add: “and love your neighbor as yourself.” In other words, whatever it is you want for yourself, want the same thing for all human beings, not just those who look, think, talk, or worship like you.
How important is inclusion? Look at our state and national politics. Look at Church politics. Look at income inequality. Look at race relations as well as immigration policy. Look at the reasons for the wars now happening throughout the world. Look at the response to Ebola in west Africa (you can be darn sure that if it was a first world country, the response would be totally different). Why are the students in Hong Kong rioting?
It’s because of one word: exclusion.
As I write this, the delegates to the Synod on the Family are revising the working document that came out last week. It was extraordinary in its inclusion — I mean really extraordinary. If it stands, I have tremendous hope for our Church.
Much love and many prayers!