Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Green Bay, WI
Reflection for Aug. 20, 2023

Reflection for Aug. 20, 2023

'There is room for everybody in the church'

God's universal and unconditional love extends through us to people who are   marginalized

By Sister Jane Riha

The call of the readings for this Sunday is clearly inclusivity of all peoples.   Jesus roamed the countryside  many ages ago and included in his inner circle those who were marginalized and shunned. We are called to open our hearts and minds to those considered to be “foreigners” or “unacceptable.”   Our Pope Francis is such a marvelous witness of this.  During the World Youth Day in Portugal, he said this: “There is room for everyone in the church, and, wherever there is not, then, please make room, including for those who make mistakes, who fall or struggle.”

In Jesus' time, there was segregation, the insiders were the people of Israel and the outsiders were designated Gentiles.   Even in those times, there was a movement for reconciliation through the advocacy of St. Paul.   We have had so many experiences recently of prejudice and discrimination in our own land.   Foreigners are desiring to come into our country.   Each of these persons should be treated with dignity and respect.  That is our call as Christians and witnesses of the Gospel.   

The love of God is universal and unconditional.  This is what the Scriptures reveal to us through Jesus’ own words and through the various stories of faith-filled persons. In 2000, the U.S. Catholic Bishops issued the document "Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity."    A statement issued 23 years ago has relevancy for today as it continues to call forth conversion for all disciples of Jesus.  The following are some quotes for reflection from that document:

“As Catholics we are called to take concrete measures to overcome the misunderstanding, ignorance, competition, and fear that stand in the way of genuinely welcoming the stranger in our midst and enjoying the communion that is our destiny as Children of God.”

“Wherever the diverse cultures of a parish and diocese are able to share the Eucharist in special celebrations that reflect the cultural riches of the participants, the Church demonstrates in the sacrament of unity the multicultural face of the Church.”

“We call upon all people of good will, but Catholics especially, to welcome the newcomers in their neighborhoods and schools, in their places of work and worship, with heartfelt hospitality, openness, and eagerness both to help and to learn from our brothers and sisters of whatever religion, ethnicity, or background.”



08/18/2023 11:45 am

Excellent, Sr. Jane. Thank you for sharing your findings. I am grateful for your deep convictions of love and faith, which move you to seek truth and knowledge.

I know what it feels like to be this woman.

Whereas, long time tradition has deemed her "unworthy" to seek the help of the LORD, and most assuredly not to enter his presence, yet her strong, courageous love for her daughter overcomes her handed-on fears, and, like other "believing" women in the stories of JESUS, the Canaanite woman persists in her pursuit of JESUS' help.

Whereas the men-disciples want to dismiss her, saying "Send her away," yet her lived faith and soul-filled pleas of prayer are revealed in the men's next statement: "She keeps calling out after us." [Matt. 15:23]

And then, the 'unthinkable' happens. This 'brazen' woman moves herself even closer to JESUS, making sure she is right there in front of him, saying: "Lord, help me."

What do I learn from this:

+ Human need takes precedence over tribal membership.

+ Human need supersedes and takes precedence over long-time traditions that no longer serve to heal and help humanity, but, instead, cause further harm to our one, common humanity and shared earth-home.

+ Exclusion is not practiced in the Realm of God.

+ Ignoring human need is not an option where Compassion "Par Excellence" lives and reigns Supreme.

And then, to top this off, incorporate and contemplate THIS into your prayer with JESUS today:

*** In the Book of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible, Canaan was a son of Ham and grandson of Noah, as well as the father of the Canaanites!!

*** This gospel story is not only about REVERSING THE TEACHINGS and PRACTICES of PREJUDICE and DISCRIMINATION, it is also about RE-UNITING, and BRINGING INTO COMMUNION all those who, originally, came from Our ONE FATHER, ONE GOD, and CREATOR of ALL.

*** All who were SEPARATED because of jealousy, rivalry, trickery, misunderstanding ..... ALL that divides us ...... ALL that hurts us ...... ALL that demeans, degrades, destroys human goodness and human "innocence," is now being reconciled through the Person, JESUS.

*** This story is about UNIVERSAL SALVATION -- for All Time, for All Peoples.





08/18/2023 12:40 pm

Thanks for the reminder, Sr. Jane.

08/18/2023 1:25 pm

Sister Jane -- this is beautifully said. Thanks for bringing these words of wisdom to our attention!

Diann Wimmer
08/18/2023 2:07 pm

Jane, you remind me that the ministry of welcoming the newcomer has been with us since early times, especially with the message of Jesus of Nazareth. I ask myself, "Why has it taken us in the world so long to embrace this way of life?" Thanks for the reflection and encouragement.

08/18/2023 4:54 pm

God’s blessings to you all for sharing your faith. As a disciple I to believe that hospitality is one of our greatest gifts to everyone. May this realization invite more people to be open to the strangers in our life. Peace

Dave & Lola Daniels
08/18/2023 10:09 pm

This holy reflection will be copied, used, and shared. Unlike the ghetto Catholic we learned prior to Vatican II, we know understand that Jesus saves everyone. We must welcome and love all our neighbors as Jesus has always done.

Tom Vandervest
08/20/2023 12:40 pm

Thank you, Sister Jane , for reminding us how important it is to welcome the stranger and to reach out to those who are different but also in need of Christ’s love!

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