In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen!
What is the difference between the walls around us in the Church and the door at the back of the room? What is the difference between the walls around our home or a fence around our house and the gate in the yard? What is the difference between our home and the someone else’s home? We may not often give much thought to the differences these examples set in our lives yet, the distinction between a wall and a door, ours and theirs, are very important.
All of these things set physical boundaries, edges, limitations in our daily life. We have walls and doors in the physical spaces we live in, but also, we have them in our relationships, in our thoughts, in our likes and dislikes. Boundaries and limitations, barriers and fences are a very natural part of life. Yet, for some reason especially in the last several years, we have mistaken the need and of what a boundary, limitation, wall and door are used for. Perhaps we have mistaken it because we have not given much thought or perhaps we have mistaken it because our societal thinking today is only two ways, we are either inclusive or exclusive. If we are inclusive then there should be no walls, borders, limitations, definitions, or closed doors. If we are exclusive, then we should change and tear away those thoughts, ideas or physical attributes which exclude people. However, this cut and dry thinking is, itself, exclusive. Additionally, it does not help answer the question of natural boundaries and limitations which are in fact, beneficial to life.
Many of us would say the Church is inclusive and others would say exclusive. Some say the Church isn’t exclusive, but rather the people are exclusive. So which is it, and more importantly what should we be? In Isaiah today we read, “How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers… Therefore the Lord says, the Lord of hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: ‘Ah, I will vent my wrath on my enemies, and avenge myself on my foes.’” We see a very clear separation that the once faithful city which is now a home for harlots, murders, etc. and the Lord is going to bring His wrath against those evil doers. God is clearly excluding certain people! In St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, we clearly see a distinction between those who choose the flesh and the law rather than those who choose a life in Christ Jesus. Finally in the Gospel, Christ Jesus teaches the Pharisees about a man who has been cleansed of an evil spirit. Yet, that evil spirit roams everywhere until it comes back to that man and finds him in good order, therefore, brings 7 more evil spirits with him to torment this man.
My dear brothers and sisters, the Church is exclusive, in order for it, to be inclusive. And we are called to be the same in our life. What do I mean? Think about the walls or fences in our home, why do they exist? To protect us from the wind, rain, snow, heat, but also from thieves, murders, and all sorts of evil from the outside. Are the walls of our home a good thing? Yes, because they protect us and our loved ones. What about someone else’s home? Are we freely able to interfere with what goes on in their homes? No, because the walls keep us out. What about our relationships and people to associate with? We may not always agree on everything but we put up boundaries and limitations so that we are protected and so that we grow. It is the same way for the Church and also for our own personal faith.
The walls we have around us, this physical space is here for all those who seek to come into communion with God. This sacred space is a place of rest, growth, healing and blessing. However, the walls of the Church, not physical but spiritual walls of the Church also protect us, the children of God from the evils of the world. What kind of evils? Anything and everything that cuts us off from Go and leads us into a life of sin. The spiritual walls of the Church are the commandments of God, the Word of Scripture, the practices of the Church – tools through which we are protected and grow. However, just as our home and our Churches have walls, what else do they have? A door. A door which is shut off and excludes evil from entering but which is open and inviting to all who come and seek the Lord our God. If we want, we can enter through those open doors and we would be welcomed. However, to those who try and break down the door, it will remain closed. To those who seek to hurt those on the inside, the doors will remain closed. Because the truth is, it is not God or the Church that is exclusive, but rather we, through the lives we live, we choose to exclude ourselves from God.
For this reason, the Church to be inclusive it must be exclusive. Exclusive of evil, hatred and anger; Exclusive of darkness, sin, and the celebration of sin. Yet, by being exclusive, the Church becomes inclusive of everyone who honestly seeks out God. This does not mean we all agree on everything but it means rather, we are all in communion together with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Likewise, my dears, we must live our lives in such a way. We must put up spiritual walls to protect us and our loved one from sin. So that we will not remain unprotected when temptation, pain, addiction, suffering, and all sorts of evil try to penetrate into our live, just as the man was unprotected in today’s Gospel, when the evil spirits returned with more force. Yes we must be exclusive, not of each other but of evil; We must not exclude compassion, but indifference; We must not exclude love, but arrogance. We must be inclusive and open the doors to everyone seeking forgiveness, healing, rest and hope because God our Father, through Christ Jesus opened the door for us to enter, to come inside His Kingdom and find rest.
Therefore, my dears, let us pray for each other asking God to open the doors of our heart to allow love, hope, compassion, trust and healing to enter. Let us pray that those who remain on the outside, those who even if they are physically here, but spiritually they are excluding themselves for whatever reason, may they come seeking healing, and the inclusivity that is in Christ Jesus. May we, also, always remember to pray and follow the commandments of God, so that they will protect us and our loved one, like the walls around our home. And in this home, which is the Holy Church, may everyone gather to praise and worship God our Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit Amen!