In order to understand both the Hebrew Scripture and the Gospel for this week’s readings, it is helpful to recall the first creation narrative from Genesis. As God proceeds in his work of creating the world at the conclusion of each day, the author of Genesis says that God saw his work and it was good. When God completed all of creation on the sixth day including the first humans, “God saw everything he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). With the story of creation as a background we can now look at the readings from the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel according to Luke.
At the very end of his prophecy, Isaiah paints a new picture of what it means for the Hebrew people to be the chosen people. In this reading, Isaiah illustrates that the major task of the chosen people rests not in privilege, but rather in spreading the word of God to the peoples of the world. God’s ultimate design for the world is not to set the Jewish people in some kind of worldly capacity of domination. Rather, the people are to bring all others to God’s holy mountain so that these others may also worship the one true God. This section of Isaiah was almost certainly written while the people were in exile in Babylon; Isaiah’s prophecy comes to fulfillment when the people bring the Gentiles to the worship of the one true God (Is 66:18).
Jesus’s words in the Gospel echo this magnificent prophecy of Isaiah. For, Jesus says, “. . . people will come from east and west from north and south and will eat in the kingdom of God” (Lk 13:29). He is talking to people who would separate the Jewish people in some exclusivist manner to the detriment of all others in the world. Jesus never denies that the
Jewish people are the chosen of God, but he does deny the position that others will not be included in the kingdom of God.
These readings lead us to some basic attitudes crucial to the true living out of the Gospel message. First, all of creation is very good even those things and people of which we do not approve. Secondly, true worship of God includes a place for all peoples at the banquet in the kingdom of God. Third, anything or any movement that separates people from one another cannot be from God. If we are going to take the Gospel message seriously, then we must find a place at the table for all peoples in the most inclusive manner possible. Separation, dissension, war and wrangling over who is invited into the kingdom of God can only be explained as the work of the evil spirit. Pope Francis has appropriated today’s Gospel message into so much of his preaching and teaching. One thing that marks his papacy is his desire to be the Holy Father for all peoples.
Jesuit Fr. Jack Treloar, an assistant director at Jesuit Retreat House, has served as a professor, lecturer, author and academic administrator.