Monday, August 18, 2014

What is it like to be an outsider ?

Dear Fathers, Friends in Christ, 

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
 Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
 Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
 Matthew 15:21-28

One of the coldest words in the English language is "outsider." That is, someone who is excluded from a community or group. If you are an "outsider," someone has excluded you and said, in effect, that you don't belong! That means there are those who consider themselves "insiders." 

 At the time of Jesus, the Jews considered themselves as chosen by God for His special favours. This conviction kept them apart from all other groups. In Matthew 15:21-28, Jesus Himself told the Canaanite woman that she was an outsider, and that He had been sent only to the house of Israel. But, because of her persistence, He gave in and healed her daughter. 

 We wonder what the Jewish crowd must have thought! We wonder if they pondered the words of Isaiah, 56:1, 6-7. This prophet (called "Third Isaiah") tells them that God no longer wants them to be "insiders." They had just returned from exile in Babylon, and were probably open to God's decision to allow foreigners also to worship and offer sacrifice on His holy mountain, "for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

 In Romans 11:13-15, 29-32, we learn that the early Christians had to struggle with this problem too. Remember, they were once pious Jews as well. How astounded they were at the enthusiasm, the faith and the holiness of the Gentile converts! St. Paul explains that both Jew and Gentile had disobeyed God, and both Jew and Gentile had received mercy and had been offered redemption.

 What a challenge to us Anglican Catholics today who are sometimes too smug or self-righteous to share our faith with other Christians and those of other religions! We must learn to open our hearts to all the "outsiders," even those of no religion, and those who have left another religion, those whom we find it difficult to love. We must not let timidity or pride or even fear hold us back. To drag our feet is to risk going against Jesus' own prayer before He died on the Cross: "that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that the world may believe that you sent me." 
(John 17:21)

 As a priest, I have often asked converts what took them so long to decide to become an Anglican Catholic Christian. . Many times I had gotten the reply, "No one ever invited me!" Wouldn't it be a good thing if once in a while, we could say to a friend or relative, or a neighbour, "Have you ever thought of becoming an Anglican Catholic?" If they show interest, then say to them, "Well, I would like to invite you now!"

 Father Ed Bakker
 Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province 
 Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne 
 Bendigo Australia