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  • Bill Miller

Scripture Reflection, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 20, 2023

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 Romans 11:13-15, 29-32 Matthew 15:21-28

If you follow the themes of the Sunday readings for a whole year, you will find many different topics covered in that 52 week cycle. Follow them over the complete three year period (cycles A, B and C) of the readings, and you will find every conceivable scriptural theme that the Lord wants us to discover: themes of praise, thanksgiving, justice, mercy, love, forgiveness and more. In their totality, the Sunday readings contain all we need to know about living a life in accordance with God’s will for each of us.

Some of the themes are comfortable, re-assuring, joyful, even exciting. Others are difficult, challenging, seemingly divisive or controversial. Today’s readings fall into the “very challenging” category. They were difficult over 2000 years ago, and they are just as challenging today.

This column is not the place to debate political issues; however, it is the place to look at logic and common sense - as guided by scripture, especially the values Christ presents to us in the Gospels. Using these characteristics as a yardstick, I can come to only one conclusion. We must come together, in a spirit of good will, to find workable solutions for the many serious issues that challenge life on our planet. Fear mongering, vilifying, attacking - whether it be verbal emotional or physical - speaking words of hate; these actions will only serve to further divide us. The cardinal virtues of faith, hope and love must be our guides. Today’s readings all point to this fact. As Abraham Lincoln famously stated: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” There, in a succinct sentence, is common sense if ever I’ve heard it!

The issue of immigrants/outsiders is given “center stage” in today’s readings. Each one addresses the question of those who are different and/or come from different places than we do. How do we, both individually and as a nation, treat the prospective immigrant, the foreigner/stranger in our midst? The United States of America is not the only nation struggling with this dilemma. Recently, during a trip to Europe, I was reminded that much of the European continent is struggling with the same issue.

How does the mercy of God figure into the equation? I am not suggesting that we should indiscriminately open our borders - so that all who seek admittance can enter, unfettered. However, one of the great injustices of our time is the fact that most of our national elected officials have not, up to this point, even been willing to openly discuss a form of compromise that would establish clear and workable laws and guidelines for immigration.

As citizens of this great nation, and as Christians who are part of this one, holy, catholic (universal) and apostolic church, what is God calling us to do? Each of us must wrestle with this question for ourself. However, inaction is not the answer!

by: Bill Miller

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