All are included, accepted in the unconditional love of God

By: By Sister Rachel Bergschneider, OSB

Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time/Sept. 27

Numbers 11:25-29; Psalm 19:8,10,12-13,14; James 5:1-6; Mark 9:38-43,45,47-48

I once heard a Buddhist phrase: “There are only two mistakes on the way to truth; one is not going far enough and the other is not starting.”

This week we are all stirred by the extraordinary person of Pope Francis as he visits our country. Francis is a man who understands the importance of going far to make clear the truth. His “unplanned” side appearances or gestures seem to be doing just that. We might think his actions are novel, that the pope is just a spontaneous person who doesn’t follow protocol all the time. But, I would suggest, there is more than “meets the eye” here. He is communicating the message of the readings.

In all of the readings — quite unusual that all have the same theme — inclusiveness is a central message. In the first reading from Numbers we hear: “Eldad and Medad (who missed the bestowal of the spirit) are prophesying in the camp,” complained one of the men. “Moses, my lord, stop them.” Moses answered, “Are you jealous. . . ? Would that all the people of the Lord were prophets” (Numbers 11: 27)

In the second reading from St. James we hear, “You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure. . . . You have condemned.” (James 5:5) Another way to say it is, “You have left some out.”

And in the Gospel the same complaint as the first reading is offered to Jesus: “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and we tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus’ response is, “Whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:45)

A DIFFICULT VIRTUE
Inclusiveness is a difficult virtue. We can pat ourselves on the back with our gestures of lighthearted inclusiveness, but when we do not like someone or some idea we can find many excuses not to include.

N.T. Wright, in his book, “What Saint Paul Really Said,” points out that we who are baptized into Christ Jesus in His death and resurrection are without distinction. “There is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Our renewed humanity is focused on inclusion. We function as a family with every member accepted as an equal member, no matter what his or her social, cultural or moral background is.

“The very existence of a community of love, love where before there was mutual suspicion and distrust, is the crucial piece of evidence that God’s spirit has been at work,” Wright emphasizes.

Pope Francis, by his gestures, surprises us and challenges us with this profound conviction. He moves among all the people of God, both the most vulnerable and the comfortable, to communicate the message that all are included in the unconditional love of God.

It is easy for us to go part of the way in our embracing each other and inclusion, but are we committed to follow the way of Jesus (as shown in the example of Pope Francis) to go far enough to truly be the disciple of Jesus that we say we are?

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SISTER RACHEL Bergschneider, OSB, is a member of the Sisters of St. Benedict of St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island. She serves as pastoral associate at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights.

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