Exclusivity – it’s everywhere. Identity can be as much as who you are not as who you are, who you won’t eat with as who you will, who you won’t pray and play with as who you will.
Yet the readings today invite us not to exclusivity but to inclusivity.
The people of Israel consider themselves a separate people, chosen especially by God. And indeed that was how God designated them. But Paul reminds us that Abraham was blessed by God to be the father of many (not one) nations and that we are all descendants of Abraham in the spirit if not in the flesh and all share in the status of chosen people.
Jesus speaks a complicated set of sayings in the Gospel: all those who believe in Jesus and witness to this belief are part of the Kingdom. But there is also a turn-- those who reject the Holy Spirit separate themselves from God.
Inclusivity and exclusivity are not absolutes and opposites but also relative and relations terms. The people of Israel are indeed the chosen people and are loved unconditionally by God but also they are also judged and reprimanded insofar as they obey and serve their God. Jesus invites everyone into the Kingdom unconditionally but also asks that they behave in certain ways too. Indeed, Jesus tells a lot of stories about who is included such as wise maidens and the poor and who is excluded such as foolish maidens and the rich – all are invited but whether they are ultimately included or excluded has to do with how they treat one another.
We are all invited to the table but we are asked to be good guests – care for those around us, acknowledge the right of all to be there, share what we have, and make room. I know a lot about making room as I have a table for 8 that has often been called upon to hold 12 or so Creighton students – having someone eat in another part of the apartment is just not right. Squeezing at the table is not always comfortable but is infinitely comforting.
Clearly we are to work for inclusivity—to recognize Christ in all, to invite all to Christ. It is not for us to exclude, to judge, to reject. And, as Jesus reminds us, if some should leave the table, invite them back, put a ring on their fingers and bring out a calf. It is Jesus’ place, not ours, to ultimately judge who belongs to the kingdom. We can take comfort in the fact that ours is a judge who looks for the missing coin, the lost sheep, the person up in the tree—and ours is a judge who rejoices with heaven when we are found and brought home.
I’m not so sure about Groucho, but I would certainly join a club that would accept anyone, even me, as a member.
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