- Fr. John Jennings
How wide is our World? How broad is our Vision?
We are part of a global, human community. Unfortunately, we are not always ready to pay attention to this. Our vision can be short and our concerns quite local. When we first heard of the corona virus, it was somewhere else, not here where we were. It was not our concern. Then suddenly we became aware that it is our concern. We are part of a global community and for good or for ill, we share this planet. In fact, with time, we discover that in all things, we are in this together. That is how God made us; how God gifted all Creation with life; how God loved us and the rest of humanity into life. Jesus and the Incarnation are an expression of God’s great love for all humanity and all creation. We are a global community.
Every so often I visit the neighbourhood in which I grew up. As I do this I am surprised by how small everything seems to be. The street is now so short. What seemed as a child to be a long, steep hill is now a gentle grade. Those big backyards are tiny now. The bushes we used to hide in are sparse little shrubs. What happened to my big neighbourhood? How did it become so small?
Perhaps nothing happened to it. But a lot happened to me. I grew in both size and in experience. I left my little neighbourhood and moved into the larger world. What was my whole world as a child is now but a tiny piece of my world. As the years passed, my world grew It encompasses many other neighbourhoods, many cultures and beliefs. As my world grew, so too did my vision. Even my vision of faith and of God and of God’s plan has broadened.
In fact, this broadening of vision is not just limited to you and to me. The people of the Old Testament like other peoples in the ancient world viewed God in a limited way. Each people had their own gods who looked after them, just as other peoples were cared for by their gods. The Israelites began with such a vision.
Over time for the Israelites this limited view of God began to change. Very gradually, their One God began to be seen as the One God not just for Israel but for all peoples. We find indications of this growing vision of a universal God, caring for all peoples in the Prophet Isaiah: And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,... these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer;... for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. (Isaiah 56:6-7)
Matthew’s gospel recognizes this growing vision. He tells the story of Jesus encountering a Canaanite woman. She wanted him to free her daughter from torment by a demon. The disciples thought it inappropriate that a foreigner, a Gentile should expect Jesus to call on the God Israel. Jesus himself seems reluctant to include her in his mission – I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. (Matt 15:21-28)
Only with her insistent faith does Jesus turn and reach out to her. He acknowledges that her faith is great. It revealed a broad vision of the God of Israel. She saw and expressed what Isaiah had proclaimed - God is for all humanity. All are welcome in God’s reign. We are in this together.
Reflection Question ~ How wide and welcoming is our faith? How open are we to the “other” - the foreigner, the one who is different from us in race, in culture, in creed and belief?