Sunday, June 30, 2019

13th Sunday OT (Cycle C): Jesus and Inclusiveness

    One of the Facebook pages I follow belongs  to a “made-up” personality who calls herself  “Susan from the Parish Counsel”. Now I have to tell you that this is a satire page and in no way, shape or form resembles any of our very hard working parish council members.
    Susan is not only a very active member of her Church community but she is also the council president. What makes this page so funny (To me at least) is that in her mind she believes that this position gives her the right and authority to run the whole parish conforming to her own personal idea of how the whole Catholic Church should be run by the Vatican.
   One of the favorite topics she likes to bring up with her readers is the fact (and she is convinced of this) that what defined Jesus ministry on earth was his compassion, his kindness and especially his inclusiveness.  Susan is always reminding us that Jesus welcomed everyone, and because of this we should all do the same. Compassion and kindness are the guiding lights which compel Susan’s to embrace all sorts of social causes and “wako” spiritualities, never mind what the teachings of the Church or the Bible are, in her mind the way she acts is the way Jesus would act if he in fact had the chance to be in Susan’s shoes, kind of like Jesus asking himself "What would Susan do"?
   I think this page is so funny because it disturbingly reflects the spirit of our times. Today the idea of Jesus accepting everyone without caring about the way they live their lives AFTER this encounter  has taken a hold of our society and culture. It is based on the erroneous idea that if we love someone we must accept everything they are or do because anything other than complete acceptance would be judgmental, unkind and even hateful.
  The problem is that under the shadow of gospel stories, like the ones I just proclaimed, this idea falls flat on it face. Yes, Jesus welcomed every one but he demanded something from everyone he encountered: Conversion. And not the one-time-thing kind of conversion that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling, but real conversion, the type which makes us realize we are sinners and places us on the path of a day-to-day struggle towards holiness.
   At the end of the day, what Susan and the spirit of our times ignore completely is the way in which Jesus welcomed everybody. His welcoming was more than a welcome, it was an invitation to a deeper relationship with the divine, it demands our attention. Jesus welcome is transformative, it changes us. It gives us life, it is a welcome to forgiveness and conversion. In the presence of the divine we are supposed to realize there are things about us that need to be changed. If we don’t we are missing the point. And what is the point? No one is perfect, no one is capable of standing in front of Jesus and say, ”I live a perfect life I do not need to change anything about it after I meet you”. Encountering Jesus requires we ask ourselves every day: what do I need to change about me? What can I give to you Lord as a response to you welcoming to me, to you giving me new life?
   Jesus was not an enabler, or a manipulator or a liar. He was very clear about the type of conversion he expected from the people he welcomed as his disciples. In today’s Gospel we see a couple of good examples of this: “Do not expect a life of luxury, I do not even have a place to lay my head at night” he says to one and “If you are to follow me you have to be willing to abandon everything and not look back not even to your friends and family”  he tells another.  A truly converted heart values a relationship with God more than a life of comfort and luxury, safe sleep, and even the death of a loved one.
   Jesus loved and accepted his disciples but he also was not afraid of correcting them. In today’s reading we also see how when the apostles are offended by the way they are treated in a Samaritan Village and want retribution for this treatment they are rebuked, because this is not the expected behaviour of one who had an encounter with the living Lord.
   Regardless of what you hear, the church wants all to be welcome, from the same sex couples to the ilegal inmigrant, form the pro-choice to the pro-life, from the straight to the LGTBQ. But as his Church, Jesus expects a specific type of behaviour from each of us. Not judging or condemning but of loving fraternal correction.  And he expects from us, his disciples to be able to look at our own sins and recognize we need conversion and when we fail, to be able to  accept the loving words of correction from others. That is what it means to love each other. That is what being welcoming and loving really means.