Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
All three readings and the responsorial psalm reflect one theme, all are welcome in this place.  The first reading from Isaiah takes place after the Jews have returned to the Promised Land from exile.  The temple has been rebuilt but they find their homeland occupied by foreigners whom they deeply resented.  After 49 years in exile, to come back and see not only their homeland but more importantly their temple, the very place where Yahweh dwelled, overrun with foreigners was more than the people could tolerate.  Enter Isaiah.  A couple of weeks ago I said the role of prophets was not to predict the future but rather to properly name the present and no one does that better than Isaiah, listen.  The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, . . . loving the name of the Lord, . . . who keep the sabbath, them I will bring to my holy mountainTheir offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  Let us build a house where prophets speak, and words are strong and true, where all God’s children dare to seek to dream God’s reign anewAll are welcome in this place.  It was not an easy lesson for the Jews to learn, weren’t they the “chosen people”?  And it remains a hard lesson for us for us to learn today.

In our second reading Paul is speaking to the Gentile Christians and calls himself the apostle to the Gentiles.  At the same time he laments that the Jews, who were first called, are rejecting Christianity.  But that rejection has resulted in the message being spread throughout the Gentile nations.  Paul holds out the hope that some of the Jews will be moved to conversion and for Paul that will literally be a movement from death to life.  God’s call and mercy is meant for all.  Here the love of God, through Jesus, is revealed in time and space; as we share in Christ the feast that frees usAll are welcome in this place.  But not “cafeteria Catholics” - those who pick and choose what practices they will follow.  We welcome those who accept all the rules but Paul sought out everyone, Jew and Gentile.

The name Canaanite in the Gospel identifies the woman as not just a Gentile but a member of a sinful race that embodies all that is wicked and godless.  A people that Jews were forbidden to associate with.  Yet this woman acknowledges that Jesus is both God and the Messiah when she addresses Him as Lord, Son of David.  Although the Jews have failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, this Gentile woman does.  Socially she does everything wrong, everything that is forbidden.  She is a foreigner who ventures into Jewish territory, she approaches a man, a Jewish man, speaks to him and refuses to be ignored.  But she ends up being one of the most highly commended persons in the gospels, the only time Matthew uses the term great faith.  What drives her, motivates her?  A daughter possessed by demons.  Is it demons that keep us from welcoming all?  The demons of fear that foreigners, aliens will use all our resources.  The demons of distrust, bias and hatred that result in the violence we saw at Charlottesville last weekend against anyone that does not think the way we do, anyone that is “not like us.”  How do we conquer those demons?  First we have to recognize that we are all children of God.  Secondly, we have to listen, really listen, before we argue.  Finally, whether we agree with others or disagree, we are called to love as God loves and love whom God loves.  The problem is God loves everyone.  Here the hopes and dreams and visions, Rock of faith and vault of grace; here the love of Christ shall end divisions:  all are welcome in this place.

We all need to think about the words we say and the words we sing.