20 Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 16, 2020
I saw a cartoon…just a little black and white drawing; nothing fancy. There was a figure that was clearly Jesus, and He was standing and facing a group of people of different sizes and shapes…but each holding what appeared to be the same book.
They looked on in “silence” as Jesus spoke to them. The little bubble over Jesus’s head read:
The difference between you and me is that you use Scripture to determine what love means…and I use love…to determine what Scripture means.
Each of our three Readings for this 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time speak to the divisions that exist within humanity; specifically, the protective walls and barriers we build in the Name of God.
On the surface, we hear a cautionary message, warning against using religion to demean, marginalize, ignore, or exclude those who hold different beliefs.
That is clearly the message God is communicating to Israel through Isaiah.
“The Chosen People” used Scripture to protect what they regarded as their special and privileged relationship with God. Because of the way they interpreted The Law and The Prophets, they felt that God’s love was directed towards Israel only, and that the rest of humanity was undeserving of The Almighty’s attention. By extension, they saw it their religious obligation to demean, marginalize, ignore, or exclude those who were different.
They used The Word of God to dehumanize anyone who was different. Shockingly, we see this attitude reflected by The Lord, Himself, when a pagan woman approached Him, begging for healing on behalf of her daughter.
At first, Jesus, like any Orthodox Jew of the time, ignored her. Then He justified excluding and marginalizing her by explaining that His mission and ministry was exclusive…intended only for The Chosen People. He even goes so far as to demean and dehumanize the poor, distraught woman by comparing her to a dog.
What we hopefully find shocking is the crowd observing this reaction by Jesus of an encounter with a pagan woman found it to be totally appropriate. They quite likely nodded their approval. They read The Scriptures to determine what love means, and their interpretation justified a very selfish and self-centered belief that they…and they alone…were worthy of God’s attention and love.
But then Jesus shocked them!
He directed His attention and compassion and healing powers towards her. He acknowledged and complimented her faith. Of course, He restored the daughter’s health…but, at same time, Jesus restored the mother’s dignity. He “humanized” her.
In all of this, Jesus showed the difference between Him and observant, orthodox, and faithful Jews. He used LOVE to determine the meaning in Scripture. When we follow this example, and read, reflect, and pray The Sacred Scriptures WITH LOVE…that is to say…WITH THE EYES OF CHRIST…only then can we fully appreciate that our Creator treasures each and every human being, regardless of the differences that distinguish us from one another.
And God, in turn, expects us to look upon one another with the same acceptance and love.