The 20th Sunday of the Year

Is 56:1 & 6-7; Rom 11:13-15 & 29-32; Mt 15:21-28 (Year A)

“Foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord … these I will bring to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.”

The tendency to isolate and exclude the stranger is a fundamental characteristic of a broken world. The children of Israel experienced such exclusion throughout their long history, and never more so than in the destruction of Jerusalem and their exile in Babylon. A people who had considered themselves chosen by God now came to know the bitterness of exclusion. The salvation that their God promised to this bitter experience reached beyond the narrow divisions of power and national pride. At a time when Israel felt most excluded, God raised their eyes to a kingdom in which all peoples would be gathered together on his holy mountain, and all peoples would be welcome in his house of prayer.

This vision, so beautifully expressed in the Book of Isaiah, challenges our sinful instinct to judge, divide and exclude. In so doing we put people beyond our love, failing to heed the generous prayer of the psalmist calling on “all the nations to be glad and exult in our God”.

One of the crucial turning points in the life of St Paul, and indeed in the life of the early Church, was the realisation that the Father’s love reached beyond the narrow boundaries of Judaism. As the Apostle to the gentiles, Paul abandoned centuries of self-righteous separation so as to embrace the generosity of the Gospel.

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