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  Word To Life

Sunday Scripture Readings, Aug. 14, 2011

By Sharon K. Perkins
Catholic News Service

August 14, Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Cycle A Readings:

1) Isaiah 56:1, 6-7

Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

2) Romans 11:13-15, 29-32

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28

At the biannual family reunions for my mother's side of the family, we feature a wall-hung "family tree" drawn on a large bed sheet. At the roots of the tree are the names of my great-grandparents who emigrated from Europe at the turn of the 20th century. The thickest limbs feature the names of their six surviving children, branching out to hundreds of cousins and their progeny. There are now so many "twigs" on the tree that it has become difficult to find room for them on the sheet!

In the early years after their arrival in America, the family consisted completely of Catholics with Czech surnames, since the six siblings all married within the immigrant community. (In fact, marrying outside of one's ethnic group and one's religion was greatly frowned upon in those days.)

However, the names on the outer branches and twigs show that, as the generations passed, people from all sorts of ethnic and religious groups -- even racial groups -- joined our family through marriage and by adoption.

There are no names of "outsiders" written on a separate sheet. Though all do not share in the heritage of common parents by bloodline, we belong to one another and believe that our family is beautifully enriched by those who have been "grafted" onto our tree.

Each of the readings today reveals God's salvific plan to gather all nations in worship and praise. Isaiah's prophetic vision includes "foreigners," whose service and sacrifices are acceptable to the Lord despite their alien status.

St. Paul assures the church in Rome that God is merciful to all who have disobeyed, whether Jew or gentile. And in the Gospel reading, Jesus -- who is initially reluctant to offer healing and compassion beyond the "lost sheep of the house of Israel" -- is won over by the persistent faith of a Canaanite woman.

Most of us who consider ourselves "insiders" in the church of Jesus Christ are indeed gentiles as well, "outsiders" adopted by grace when Jesus extended his arms on the cross in an unselfish gesture of inclusivity.

God's "family tree" is big enough for all people who entrust themselves to his mercy and love, who "observe what is right" and "do what is just." Its branches stretch to the ends of the earth and for all eternity.


Are you ever tempted to think of some people as being "outside" of God's mercy and love? How can today's readings help you to see just how extensive and inclusive God's love is?


"My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples" (Isaiah 56:7).


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