Isaiah’s vision in today’s first reading is beautiful: that of the “mountain of the Lord’s house.” This is not a house whose entrance is meant to be guarded by sentinels, bull-headed bouncers who check “the guest list” at the door to determine one’s entrance. Instead we hear “all nations shall stream toward it.” All are welcome! Our Church continues to emphasize this vision. As Nostra Aetate (the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions) reads from the Second Vatican Council, “In her [the Catholic Church’s] task of fostering unity and love among humanity, and even among nations, she gives primary consideration in this document to what human beings have in common and to what promotes fellowship among them.” Pope Francis goes on to say, “the Church will be ever more committed to travel along the path of dialogue and to intensify the already fruitful cooperation with all those who, belonging to different religious traditions, share her intention to build relations of friendship and share in the many initiatives to do with dialogue.”
This attitude is clearly enunciated in the Gospel today as Jesus demonstrates his willingness to enter the home of a Roman centurion, an action which would have made him ritually unclean. The centurion demonstrates his faith through his statement, “I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.” How amazing it is that we use his words just before we receive the Lord in Holy Communion – not the words of one of the saints, but those of a Gentile unbeliever!
This attitude is also evident in the man we remember today, St. Francis Xavier. This man is said to have baptized anywhere for 30,000 to 300,000 men and women. In order to bring that many to the faith, he must have been a man who was able to see past the differences and to celebrate that which is common to us all. St. Francis Xavier is the patron saint of the Diocese of Joliet which makes this day a feast day on our liturgical calendar. It is, indeed, a happy coincidence that these readings coincide with the feast as it reminds us of how we are all called to embrace all human beings.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator