In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. after speaking in very welcoming terms in the Beatitudes, He followed with a series of statements framed by the words: “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you” [ex. Mt 5:38a, 39a]. In these, Jesus called His listeners to a level of behavior that transcends the norms of the times. Jesus invited all to discipleship in Him, not membership in a group or community. This is a very important point we need to bear in mind as we confront our own times.
Recently, there have been many voices calling for a more “inclusive” Church
Recently, there have been many voices calling for a more “inclusive” Church – a Church that welcomes those who, in the past, felt excluded, even persecuted; a Church that celebrates every person as a child of God; a Church that helps people to grasp, as St Paul put it: “how wide and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ” [Eph 3:18-19a].
There is much to admire in that aspiration of inclusiveness. Surely, we all should be more welcoming of everyone regardless of their background or life circumstances. As we regularly hear in the Gospel accounts, there is clear biblical command for us to emulate Jesus in welcoming the stranger, in reaching out to the marginalized and in bringing justice and love to those who have been mistreated. Sadly, many have felt afraid to confront their personal struggles, for in the past, they were met with stern judgementalism.
All are invited to encounter Jesus as we carry our own crosses.
As St Paul said to the Corinthians: “all belong to Christ” [cf. 1 Cor 3:23], we realize that the gospel, the “good news” of being saved by Jesus Christ, is for everyone. All are invited to encounter Jesus as we carry our own crosses. And we recognize that we all fall short in that effort; as Pope Francis put it: “The Church is a field hospital for the vulnerable, not a haven for the righteous/” 1
Discipleship in Christ involves a willingness to strive to
a level of behavior that transcends the norms of the times.
Unfortunately, in our desire to be more inclusive, many are losing sight of the point made earlier: Jesus invites us to discipleship in Him, not membership in a group or community. Discipleship in Christ involves a willingness to strive to a level of behavior that transcends the norms of the times.
As we welcome others, we need to have confidence in the goodness of what Jesus taught. Fellowship is important, but the Church is more than a place for fellowship. The Church is the place where those who desire discipleship in Christ, striving to follow His authentic teachings, can come and feel welcome. The Church is where one can encounter the transformative love of Jesus as we all strive in discipleship.
The Church does not change the teachings of Jesus to foster membership; the Church holds firm to His teachings to foster discipleship. Because discipleship is what Jesus calls all of us to That’s the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount. This, friends, is the “inclusive” Church we strive for.
“Till next time,
Dcn Bob Evans
February 28, 2023
1. Pope Francis, Address to the members of Village de Francois, May 14, 2022.
Mathew 5:38-48; 1 Cor 3:23; Eph 3:18-19a