Tuesday, April 28, 2009


First Reading: Acts 8:1b-8
Psalm: Ps 66:1-7a
Gospel: Jn 6:35-40


Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me, because I came down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of the one who sent me. - John 6:37-38
Have you ever been at mass, or at a church sponsored event, and seen someone that did not look like they belonged there? Maybe they had dirty clothes. Perhaps they had a lot of piercings or tattoos. Maybe they hadn't shaved or showered for a while. In any case, they looked out of place among the other congregants. What did the people around them do? Did they back away, ignore them, whisper to their neighbors?

Not long ago, I might have been one of those parishioners, grumbling to myself something like, "Don't they know that this is church and they should be presentable?" After all, I'd dressed in my nice clothes, bathed and was sitting quietly. Apparently, I'd forgotten to polish my halo. I had a difficult time seeing past the exterior appearance to the person. But God always brings down the proud. Later that year, for a few weeks, I had to make a choice: either skip mass or go wearing clothes that I'd been in all day. Around tigers. And their droppings.

Recently, I was helping a friend who is just coming back to Christ. He has many tattoos all over his arms and face, some of them are pagan symbols. He was cleanly dressed and shaved. Bald. When we took our seats for the mass, we both noticed a few glances in our direction. There wasn't a lack of people in the church, but as more came in, they avoided sitting near us. Just before the homily, my friend turned to me and said that he felt uncomfortable, that people were judging him and maybe he should go.

Jesus tells us in today's gospel that He will not reject anyone who comes to Him, because they have been sent by His Father. The gospels tell us over and over again that He spent much of his time around those who were seen as the lowest of the low. Our job, as the body of Christ, is to accept our brothers and sisters, even the dirty and unsightly ones, with open arms and say "Welcome home."

This is not to say that we should encourage people to attend mass in muddy overalls or the like. There is definitely something to be said for someone who grooms themself before approaching the altar of God. However, we must remember that it is of utmost importance to make that approach (humbly), regardless of our appearance.

The reading for today emphasizes this. Philip (another early deacon) goes to the Samaritans, whom the Jews considered ritualistically unclean. They were taught from a very young age to hate each other, each group believing that it had the truth from the scriptures (sound familiar?) It must have been difficult for Philip to overcome the social conditioning that he had against the Samaritans, but overcome it he did, to do the work of God. Later on, Paul did the same thing in his preaching to the Gentiles. These early Christians followed the command of Jesus to love one another, rather than blindly follow the social norms of the day. Let us follow their lead.

Heavenly Father, we thank You and praise You for the gift of this day. Thank you for the many blessings which we enjoy. Lord, grant that we might see You in the lowly of our world. Help us to look past appearances and accept brothers and sisters of all races and languages that wish to walk with You. Guard us from pride and guide us humbly back to Your graces. We ask all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

1 comment:

  1. It's good to remember that God looks at the heart, not the clothing, etc.

    Thanks for the reminder.