In Or Out? Included or Excluded?
What a great feeling it is to be included…and what a terrible experience to feel left out! Included is comforting, and excluded is painful. Saul, knew what it was like to be shunned, ignored, and even hated. Well, what did he expect being a ‘bounty hunter’ of Christians? When he tried to join the disciples in Jerusalem they were afraid of him. Barnabas went to bat for him and got him included by the Apostles.
Jesus used many parables to highlight the necessity of seeing everyone as equals. He downplayed excluding anyone, especially the needy, poor, and disenfranchised. A unique feature of Jesus’ stories was the fact that oftentimes people who presumed themselves to be part of the “in crowd” ended up on the outside! And, the reverse was also true. The forgotten ones were always invited to the festive banquet, the wedding feasts, and to sit on the great lawn and eat as much as they wanted after He blessed the loaves and fishes. He never wanted to put anyone in the position to have to ask, Can I come too? What about me? They got an invitation, will I get one also? Or, “How come I’m not on the list of invitees?”
We hear wonderful words in today’s Gospel that show us how to be included in Gods blessings and Kingdom: ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want, and it will be done for you.’ We are also told that we must bear fruit to stay attached or included. Saul, through his preaching bore fruit. The Apostles bore fruit by spreading the faith everywhere and to all people. And we are told to continue this by passing on the Holy Spirit that we have each received. He includes us, now we should include others…always.
One of His branches,