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SUNDAY SCRIPTURES FOR AUG. 20 | Ostracizing those who have little comes from an attitude of scarcity

Jesus shows us that God’s creation is enough for every single one of us

How many times have you heard the Gospel reading from the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time and sensed an attitude or judgment against one group of people? Many of those judgments or prejudices are based on an attitude of scarcity. We believe that there is only a limited amount of stuff to go around, so those of us who have it tend to hoard or overuse it.

Jesus asks us to think and act in a different way. This is not the only time when He asks His followers to confront this attitude of scarcity. It takes us a long time to acknowledge this attitude before we can change the behavior.

There are famines and droughts in certain portions of the world, and those geographic areas seem to always have the same threats. Those of us who live in affluence with abundant resources see how those people live, and we become afraid. We wouldn’t want to live in those circumstances, so we make sure that we have more than we need.

In the Gospel passage, Jesus invites His followers to see the woman in front of Him not as a dog but as a fellow human being, worthy to share in the healing and the richness of life that Jesus invites each of us into.

The prophet Isaiah instructs us to observe what is right and do what is just. We have heard this before from Isaiah and others, and we hear the same message today. What is right and just as we examine our use of resources and the consequences that has for other human beings and all of creation?

The Israelites in the desert were asked to gather manna as it was needed on a daily basis. Some of them didn’t trust in the promise of God, so they gathered more than what they needed for the day. When they opened their containers filled with excess manna, they found maggots devouring it. When Jesus’ disciples were faced with a large crowd that needed to be fed, they wanted to send them home. Jesus instructed them to sit them on the grass and to gather the resources that were present in that moment.

The lesson seems clear but is difficult to follow. We have become so afraid of the needy. We see them as a drain on our resources and a threat to our security. Not unlike the time of Jesus, we try to protect our own familiar group against the infiltration of those who are different than we are, those who have nothing to offer us in return for our generosity.

God’s creation is enough for every single one of us. Protecting the unborn, the elderly and the fragile means that we must stand as a public witness to those who are in need. They are not to be sent home empty or to be treated as less than ourselves. In order to do that, we must confront our own fears and insecurities.

Most of us have learned by this point in our lives that the way to deal with our fears and insecurities is to put ourselves in situations where we connect with others. Just as Jesus made sure that His journey touched the lives of strangers, the hungry and naked, the broken and sinful, and all other ostracized groups, we are called to do the same thing. Will our journeys this week allow us to act against our fears and insecurities, so that we might come to know the truth about the plentiful goodness of God?

Father Donald Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.

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