Some years ago, I recall reading about a response Mother Theresa gave to a question about offensive language. She explained that, to her, one of the most offensive words in the language is exclusive. I never forgot that simple point of view – the more so as our world and communities seem to become increasingly divided over countless issues. This results in an inclusion of some but mostly an exclusion of others – be that in clubs, classes, economic status, citizenship and/or membership and belonging to whatever.
It seems to me it would be a contradiction for a Christian community to present itself as exclusive. I mean, the idea that a community of persons united in their faith in Jesus Christ would consider it right to exclude some population of persons from that community would render itself, in essence, an Un-Christian community.
Does that seem too simplistic? Maybe it is. But when a community announces itself as a “welcoming community”, that seems like an unconditional welcome. Yet, perhaps the problem lies in the delta between what we say and announce and what, in fact, we practice.
I believe for a Christian community to authentically “be welcoming,” the welcome must be unconditional and entirely inclusive. Therefore, any person, young or old, man or woman, gay or straight, rich or poor, employed or unemployed, of any color, race, background or tradition, married, divorced, single, handicapped, or healthy should be welcomed.
Being a welcoming community does not necessarily mean that the welcoming members agree with, practice, or live in total accord with one another’s beliefs. Nor does it mean that the members are always in agreement with those who are being welcomed. It’s not about agreement, it’s about acceptance.
I write about this topic because I believe there are many who do not feel welcomed in church. Even if a church announces “Welcome,” it does not automatically mean one entering a church experiences a feeling of welcome – an environment or climate of welcome. To make that happen requires a deliberate intention on the part of everyone to be welcoming and an openness to be welcomed.
Everyone carries his/her own baggage. For many, the load is very heavy and it often includes scars, deep hurt, and sometimes fear. There may be uncertainty about how God views them or if a faith community will be accepting of them. The truth is everyone is unconditionally loved and accepted in the eyes of God and followers of Christ are called to do the same.
Jesus Christ comes to bring light into our darkness, hope into our desolation, and freedom to our enslavement. He enjoined us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. He told us that whatever we do to those we consider to be “the least of our brothers and sisters” we do to him. If we want to call ourselves Christians, then we must work hard at following Christ’s teachings and at creating communities of welcome. So let’s roll up our sleeves and do our part in creating the world God envisioned for us right where we are.
January 19 ~ Second Sunday Ordinary Time
In today’s gospel, John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the Son of God. Our faith and Sacred Scripture confirm this for us – Jesus is the Son of God.
Pray today’s Psalm with an open heart and open mind: “Here am I, Lord; I come to do your will.”
What is God’s will for us – for you ?
It is to speak the name of Jesus and tell of His work in your life.
It is Jesus’ will that you make disciples.
Not everyone will do this the same way.
Ask for the grace to find the best way you can to testify – talk about – Jesus