Sunday Scripture Reading

twentieth sunday

in ordinary time,

august 18

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Psalm 67;

Romans 11:13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28

OUR GOOD NEWS: God won't exclude anyone from salvation. "My salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed." God's personal word given through his prophet Isaiah proclaimed fulfillment of our hope (first reading). He comes soon to bring "salvation," deliverance from everything that stunts life and impedes truly happy living. At that time he will "reveal his justice," deliver on his solemn promise to bless his people by keeping his part of the covenant bargain. But gifts must be accepted, for the covenant binds us too. We must keep our side of the agreement ("do what is just") by carefully following God's instructions ("observe what is right)." The result will be the kind of community life he intends. Some religions incline toward exclusivism, limiting full membership according to sex, race or nationality. God firmly rejected such elitism and welcomed converts from among despised "foreigners." These may share the same status as native-born Jews, with access to the temple and the privilege of ministering in a priesthood of all believers. He requires only that we "love the Lord's name." The Sabbath observance need not be legalistic but a declaration of gratitude to God and of freedom from enslavement to creatures. This weekly day of rest declares that one's priorities are not moneymaking or a well-kept, well-run house, but the desire to serve God alone. The concluding description is already fulfilled within the Christian community, itself the anticipation of eternal life in the final-age Kingdom: All peoples gathered in the Lord's own house, filled with joy while constantly praising and thanking him. God does the saving, but we cooperate by accepting. As anticipation of the final-age Kingdom where last shall be first, his Church is intended for everyone and for every sort, especially the poor, vulnerable and rejected. We are called to a counter-cultural lifestyle, placing our priority on practical service to God (concern for one another, worship), free from oppression by greed, ambition and pride. Sunday observance symbolizes this freedom and our priorities. In discussing the Jews' failure to accept Jesus, Paul (second reading) concludes with reflections on God's mercy that never ceases and includes everyone. God doesn't give and then take back, doesn't change his mind about whom he chooses and blesses. Playing with a paradox, Paul taught that human disobedience is only a temporary factor in God's plan of universal salvation. God writes straight with crooked lines, even using our sinfulness to save us! In today's second reading Paul made a number of important points. Anti-Semitism is unbiblical and unChristian. That God continues his special love for Jews reassures us that no matter what, he won't change his mind about us, either. God can turn to our good even the evil we bring upon ourselves. Finally, Paul's failure to convert his fellow Jews serves as a model for us who must accept failure in our lives, especially when it concerns loved ones who refuse what we judge is to their advantage.

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