A Penitent Blogger

Mindful of my imperfections, seeking to know Truth more deeply and to live Love more fully.

Quid sum miser tunc dicturus? Quem patronum rogaturus? Cum vix iustus sit securus?
Recordare, Iesu pie, Quod sum causa tuae viae: Ne me perdas illa die...

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Outsiders

You know who they are. They’re not like us. They offend us.

We, on the other hand, are good people and we feel - we know - we are in a wonderful place.

The Outsiders disturb us: not only because they offend us, not only because they do not think or act as we do, but - most insidiously - they disturb us because of one nagging thought in the back of our brain:

What if we do not have the monopoly on goodness and blessedness? What if God also somehow blesses those Outsiders?

Both of today’s readings refer to both to Outsiders who are blessed by God and to some “insiders” who are violently resentful.

We ourselves can sometimes develop a "fortress mentality:" feeling very superior to Outsiders and feeling angry and defensive when that mentality is threatened.

The truth is that God can and does work beyond the “Circle of the Blessed” among which we number ourselves. Rather than become resentful or defensive, we should rejoice in the wondrous goodness of God whenever it is manifested. Indeed we can sometimes even learn a thing or two from Outsiders.

That being said, truth is truth and full membership has its privileges.

Throughout salvation history we see consistently that God’s loving relationship with humanity is focused through the instrumentality of a chosen people, even when the people are imperfect. Moreover, learning from those outside the faith must never be allowed to dilute or diminish the truths of the faith.

We have a responsibility to be faithful instruments for the good of the world according to the will of God, not according to the way of the world.

Even in today’s first reading, which our Lord in today’s Gospel points to as a great example of God’s blessings being bestowed outside the chosen people, two of the most critical instruments of those blessings are indeed two members of the chosen people.

The prophet Elisha gives the instructions for the healing of Naaman, even while deliberately maintaining a certain distance. While blessed by God in some ways, Naaman is not quite yet part of the people of God. To act as if that distinction did not exist would be to diminish the people of God as that most special instrument of God’s grace in the world.

The other “insider” who is most crucial in facilitating Naaman’s healing, and perhaps the best example for us, is perhaps the little Israelite slave girl: a child, a slave, a female, part of a conquered people – as much of an outsider as one could get in those days!

In a real sense, we are the Outsiders: we are the people in the world who hold onto something precious that comes from beyond the world and extends infinitely beyond it.

Yet we should not be arrogant and defensive like the "insiders" of Christ’s hometown. Nor should we be paranoid and suspicious like the King of Israel (the ultimate insider) who chased Naaman away. Nor should we cast away the truth and the grace we have received (and the distinctiveness that comes with it).

Rather, we should be more like the little slave girl: humble, yet faithful instruments of God’s grace and truth... even to Them.