One of the most important words or, if you will, lines of development, which is challenging religion, theology, and churches today is inclusivity or it’s opposite, exclusivity. Love, which is the primary Christian virtue, identifies with inclusivity. Exclusivity, in many ways, is the opposite of love. Christian churches today, Including the Catholic church, have been accused, with a certain amount of truth , of practicing exclusivity, The opposite of love–a blatant violation of the great commandment to love God and one another.
Witness, for example, the time, energy and effort spent in religious/ political polemics about refusing holy communion for politicians whose consciences do not allow them to vote according to certain Episcopal guidelines. Witness also the canonical regulations deciding who may or may not receive holy Communion, to what degree we may include or exclude certain people with certain social or political convictions from our ecclesiastical assemblies. It seems that more time is spent in deciding whom to exclude rather than whom to embrace.
Have we forgotten entirely that Jesus dined with sinners and said that he came to call not the righteous but sinners? Where is our focus? Is it on embracing sinners and inclusivity or self righteous exclusions sometimes concealing a pharisaic hypocrisy..? Thanks to the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church reminding us of Jesus’s teachings, we have a pope who is gently and kindly making positive efforts to reach out AND TO LEAD BACK HOME MANY WHO HAVE BEEN SENT AWAY AND EXCLUDED.
CHRISTIANS INSIST THAT GOD HAS REVEALED HIMSELF AND HIS HOLY WILL IN THE BIBLE.BUT THEN MANY OF US,CHURCHES AND INDIVIDUALS, HAVE NEVER READ THE BIBLE AS CHRISTIANS. RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY, WE HAVE ALLOWED THE INHERENT WEAKNESSES OF THE HUMAN CONDITION ,MANIFESTED USUALLY IN PRIDE AND SELFISHNESS, TO MISLEAD US TO REWRITE OR AT LEAST, TO REINTERPRET THE HOLY SCRIPTURES ACCORDING TO OUR OWN FLAWED IMAGE AND LIKENESS.
PART OF THIS PROBLEM IS FOUND IN OUR USE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT.
IT SEEMS THAT WE ARE GIVEN THERE WHAT CAN ONLY BE CALLED A VERY EXCLUSIONARY VIEW OF GOD’S SELECTION OF THE JEWS AS A CHOSEN RACE.BUT THIS REVELATION IS SEEN AS EXCLUSIONARY ONLY BECAUSE OF THE NARROW MINDED VIEW POINT OF ITS READERS,WHOLE CHURCHES AS WELL AS INDIVIDUALS ,MISLED BY WAY OF INBRED PREJUDICES AND DEBILITATING CULTURAL BIAS.THESE ARE SIMPLY FACTS OF HISTORY,NOT SO MUCH TO BE DEPLORED AS TO BE TRANSCENDED. JESUS RECOGNIZED THIS WHEN HE PREACHED THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT:” YOU HAVE HEARD IT SAID….BUT I SAY TO YOU.”IN THIS ,HIS MOST ELEVATED EXPRESSION OF HIS TEACHING, HE GAVE US A SERIES OF INCLUSIVE BEATITUDES.ARE WE PERHAPS ONLY NOW BEGINNING TO LISTEN TO THEM?? Or have we yet to begin?
IN OUR MONASTIC CHANTING OF THE PSALMS IN THE DIVINE OFFICE, I HAVE OFTEN BEEN TAKEN ABACK BY THE STRONG, FREQUENT REFERENCES TO INCLUSIVITY. YES, GOD HAS CHOSEN HIS SPECIAL PEOPLE BUT IN NO WAY HAS THIS BEEN INTENDED TO EXCLUDE OTHERS- RATHER THE OPPOSITE IS TRUE. THERE ARE CONSTANT REFERENCES TO NON-JEWS EXPRESSED BY THE WORDS ‘THE NATIONS’ OR THE PEOPLES’ OR ‘THE ENDS OF THE EARTH’.CLEARLY GOD HAD CHOSEN THE JEWS,NOT AS A LIMITED,PRIVILEGED,EXCLUSIVE ENCLAVE BUT AS A MESSENGER, A PRIEST, A PROPHET, A TEACHER WHOSE AWESOME ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITY WAS TO BRING GOD TO THE NATIONS,THE GENTILES (THE VERY WORD GENTILES MEANS nations).Time and again we pray in the psalms an all embracing appeal to the father of the entire human race who has made us little less than the angels and crowned us with glory and honor (ps.8)
Sing praises to the Lord who dwells in Zion,tell among the nations his deeds(ps.9).
The Lord judges the world with righteousness, he judges the world with justice (ps.9)
I will extol you,Lord among the nations and give praise to your name.(ps.50)
All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord and all the families of the nations shall worship before him(ps.22 and the prayer Jesus said on the cross)
Say among the nations, the Lord reigns.The world is established and shall never be moved.He will judge the peoples with justice.(ps.96)
Praise the Lord all nations.Extol him all peoples, for great is his steadfast love toward us (ps.117)
The prophet Isaias especially time and again speaks eloquently of the call of Yahweh to all peoples to feast at his table and rejoice in his mercy.
Let me conclude by quoting at length from one of the most beautiful psalms,number 145.If you listen to this now from your own place of inclusiveness.
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.The Lord is good to all and his compassion is over all that he has made.All your works shall give thanks to you,O Lord. and all your saints shall bless you.They shall speak of the glory of your kingdom, and tell of your power, to make known to the children of the human race your mighty deeds and the glorious splendors of your kingdom…The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down.The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food in due season.You open your hand and satisfy the deskre of every living thing…The Lord is near to all who call upon him……he fulfills the desire of all who fear him, he hears their cry and saves them…My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord and let all flesh bless his holy name forever.