Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.
The recent calamities left us so many pictures of devastated houses. A religious sister who hails from Tacloban told me that when she visited her home province, she was saddened to see that there was not a single house that survived the typhoon. Everybody, whether rich or poor, was left homeless. It was this image of homeless people that I immediately remembered when I heard today’s first reading about God’s house which he intends to open to all people: “My house shall be a house of prayer open for all peoples.”
Isaiah’s prophecy reveals to us the very accommodating heart of God. Listening to the first reading, we immediately see how God opens his house even to the foreigners: “Let not the foreigner say, when he would join himself to the Lord, ‘The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.’ The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer…” Access to his house will not be limited to only one clan or one nation. It will not be a members-only club. It will not be for a chosen few. Rather, it will be for all.
As we begin our Simbang Gabi tonight, we begin our meditation on how the Blessed Virgin and St. Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and searched for a place fitting for the birth of the Son of God incarnate. Our hearts are touched as we see the Blessed Couple knock from door to door, from house to house and they were rejected at every time because there was no room for them in the inn. But if we look at the wider picture, we see beyond the narrow confines of the human heart which finds difficulty in giving space to God. When we look beyond the horizon, we behold God whose heart is wider than we can ever imagine. While we are restrictive, the Lord is more welcoming. The welcoming heart of God exposes the evil of what Pope Francis calls the “economy of exclusion.” The Pope wrote: “How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a ‘throw away’ culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the ‘exploited’ but the outcast, the ‘leftovers’.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 53.]
The answer of the Lord to this economy of exclusion is the Church, which is God’s house of prayer for all nations. The “people which God has chosen and called is the Church. Jesus did not tell the apostles to form an exclusive and elite group. He said: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28:19). Saint Paul tells us in the people of God, in the Church, ‘there is neither Jew or Greek... for you are all one in Christ Jesus’ (Gal 3:28). “ [EG, 113.] “The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel.” [EG, 114.] People may exclude Jesus from their homes but the Lord will never exclude us from his. Not even the foreigner should say “I have been excluded by the Lord.”
Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.