welcome people as equals
23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: September 9, 2018
We are part of a new parish, St. Catherine of Siena Parish. A union of two former parishes, Corpus Christi and Our Lady of Lourdes. So, it is a good time for us to reflect on what the church is called to be and what this parish is therefore called to be. How do we be the church here in this Parish? In today’s readings, there are two key aspects of the church revealed and they both challenge us as a Parish.
First, we see Jesus, when a man who is deaf and mute is brought to him, Jesus takes him aside, puts his fingers in his ears and touches his tongue. He touches the man, does not remain distant from him, he is showing incredible care for this man, embraces his situation. The care of Jesus reveals the care that our parish is called to have for all who come here.
This is not just a neat miracle that Jesus performs. It is connected to our first reading from the Prophet Isaiah. Isaiah says, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart. Be strong, fear not. Here is your God, He will come and save you.” Isaiah says the sign of this God coming is that the eyes of the blind will be opened, the ears of the deaf unstopped, tongue of the mute sing for joy. So, the miracle of Jesus healing the deaf and mute man is seen clearly as the sign of God coming, that they are saved, that they do not need to give in to fear.
The church, and so our parish, needs to call out like Isaiah to all with fearful hearts. Be strong, fear not. Like Jesus we need to care enough to touch and be with those who are struggling, who are fearful, who feel lost.
The second challenge of being the Church comes in our reading today from James. He offers very challenging words for us Christians, for us priests, for the church, for our parish. James challenges the Christians strongly, “do you really believe in the Lord Jesus, when you are showing favouritism to the rich, put aside the poor as less worthy?” Imagine someone well dressed comes in and we treat them special, then someone poor we put aside in some place as lower than us. The challenge for our parish is simple: Who is welcome here? Do we show favouritism to some because they are wealthy, well dressed, well known? Are the poor, the vulnerable, welcomed, received, treated as equal?
The St. Vincent de Paul Society of our area is having a gathering tonight in our hall after Mass. In our parish, the St. Vincent de Paul Society is the face of the parish reaching out to those most vulnerable and needy in our community. Through them and the way you support their ministry, we are treating the poor as valuable, as important. As Pope Francis always emphasizes, we are called to recognize the suffering Christ, in the homeless, the addicted, the elderly often isolated and abandoned, and wherever the suffering Christ is found among us. In fact, St. Vincent de Paul would say, “Go to the poor: you will find God.”
If our parish is to be faithful to the call of the church, we must embrace and welcome all people as equals, especially the most vulnerable. All must be welcomed with equal dignity.
Our St. Catherine of Siena Parish will soon build a new church and facilities. But, more important, this parish is challenged in these readings to be like Jesus. To touch all who come to us in need with real care. To be a word of hope to all who have a fearful heart. To show no favouritism, but to embrace and receive all people, especially the poor and vulnerable as brothers and sisters.
This will be the true sign of our faithfulness as a Catholic parish.