ST. JOSEPH FALL RAFFLE
Last summer St. Joseph sponsored a raffle with the top prize being $10,000. We will be holding a similar raffle this Fall with tickets selling for $100.00. Tickets will be on sale soon. Those who purchased tickets last year will receive a reservation form in the mail to secure their tickets early. Only 500 tickets will be sold. New this year will be that for each ticket sold one person will be admitted to a dinner on October 1 where the raffle will take place. If you would like to help sell raffle tickets, please come see me or stop in the church office Monday through Friday during office hours.
REFLECTION ON THE READINGS
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, paragraph 16, the Vatican II Council Fathers wrote: "Those who have not yet received the gospel are related to the People of God in various ways. There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Romans 9:4-5): In view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (cf. Romans 11:28-29).
"But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: These profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day.
"Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through dictates of their conscience—those too, may achieve eternal salvation.
"Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life." So the Fathers of the Council do not exclude anyone acting in good faith from the possibility of salvation. They do go on, however, to speak of the Church's mission from Christ to bring the gospel to all people, for Christ is the source of salvation for the whole world.
I made reference to the above teaching of the Roman Catholic Church several months ago in regard to questions about whether or not only Catholics are saved. It is interesting that our readings today address this very issue and how some people have difficulty with the fact that God extends an invitation to all people to be saved. Some people would much rather have God punish certain people or exclude others from eternal life, simply because they have different political or religious views than they do. This is how human beings think, but not how God thinks. We need to go back to the reality that all people are created by God. God doesn’t create bad things or evil things. There is a fundamental goodness to all people which is the very reason God loves us all and desires to save us all.
The Old Testament is really the story of how God chose one particular group of people, the Israelites, or the Jewish people, to be the first to hear the message of God’s love and salvation. They were called then to be the people who witnessed to the greatness of God (over all the other gods of that time) in such a way that people would come to believe in one God. Gradually, over time, people began to see that God was also calling them, even Gentiles (non- Jews), experienced God’s invitation to be saved. The first reading today tells us how “people of every nation” will be invited to be gathered together by God. Even some of these people will be “priests and Levites” which was unthinkable in the Jewish world. God keeps expanding his sphere of influence over more and more people.
In the gospel Jesus has to deal with the people’s false notion that because they were part of the chosen people (Jews or Israelites) that they would be saved no matter what. Jesus begins to expand their vision by showing how all people will be invited to the kingdom. And some of the “last” to hear this message (the gentiles) will be “first” in the kingdom of God. And some of those who were “first” to hear the message of Jesus will be “last” in the kingdom of God. In other words, the “outsiders become insiders.”
And the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that there is a certain “discipline” involved in all this. That discipline is the responsibility we were given in baptism to give witness to the reality of God in our world. People of every religious faith, every language, every way of life, should be able to see in us the reality of the love that is God’s love by the way we interact with them. In a world where there is so much division between groups of people, even division fostered by people who profess belief in God; we need to be more effective witnesses to the reality of God’s love and mercy rather than witnesses to our own petty disagreements and our misunderstandings about God’s love and mercy. This witness to our faith that takes discipline and an open mind is precisely the “narrow door” that Jesus calls us to enter through.