August 22, 2010 — Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 66:18-21; Psalm 117; Hebrews 12:5-7, 11-13; Luke 13:22-30
You’ve had the experience, haven’t you, of coming into a room full of strangers, all of whom seem to already know each other? Most people feel dismay as they look around, trying to figure out where they should go and what they should do. What a wonderful feeling it is when someone comes over, speaks to you and welcomes you, and then leads you over to meet other people.
It’s something like that experience for all the peoples of the world in the Kingdom of God, according to the Scripture readings for today. Even though God gave his revelation to his chosen people, the Jews, the message was not for them alone.
That idea was shocking to many Jews. They had been taught by the Lord that he is the only true God. The Gentile peoples in the rest of the world worshipped many gods of various sorts. The Jews had been conditioned to avoid other nations as much as possible, for fear that their loyalty to God would be contaminated. And, indeed, through much of the Old Testament, friendly relations with foreign peoples had introduced pagan practices into Israel. So separation from other nations was a basic element of Jewish life.
But there are hints throughout the Old Testament that God intended his revelation to reach a wider audience, provided that its truth and the purity of their worship were maintained. The reading from Isaiah 66 is one of the passages in which God most clearly declare his care for all peoples – he will “gather nations of every language” who will come to offer themselves to the Lord. And most astounding of all, God will even choose some of them to serve as priests.
Jesus in the reading from Luke 13 makes the same point – God invites people from the four points of the compass to dine in his Kingdom.
This welcome that God extends to all the peoples of the earth should be displayed in our parishes. After all, we claim to be God’s people, and we should, as best we can, live out the qualities God wants his people to have.
Hospitality has been identified as one of the hallmarks of living as stewards. God has welcomed us to his table. Should we not share the welcome we have received with others? If we reject those whom God has invited, we risk being among those to whom Jesus gave the warning that they would find “you yourselves cast out.” Our challenge this week is to spread God’s invitation to all who have not yet heard it.