BRIDGEPORT— The great revelation of Christianity is that God’s love is available to all, but we as Christians must work to live up to that understanding in our church, our community and in our own lives, said Bishop Frank J. Caggiano in his Mass for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
“God’s mercy knows no bounds and is not afraid to go into the shadows of this world. Twenty-one centuries later, no one among would dispute this revelation of Christian faith; Christ is the savior of all people, all humanity. God’s love is offered to all.”
However, while we have an understanding of words, we have not always taken them to heart, the bishop said, noting that Christians must work to root out racism, self-righteousness and division that exclude others.
The bishop’s homily was based on Matthew’s account of the Canaanite woman (15:21-28) who asks the Jesus to heal her daughter even though she is a Gentile, and Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (Rom 11:13-25, 29-32), celebrating God’s love for all, “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”
The bishop noted that after much suffering and struggle, St. Paul, who was formerly zealous to follow the law, came to a larger understanding that God’s love was open to all.
“Through the revelation of Christ in his life, St. Paul was coming to understand what the Lord was actually doing by reaching out to the woman who was not Jewish in an area that was pagan,” he said. “ St. Paul came to the truth that God’s love and mercy are destined for every person made in his image and likeness.”
The bishop said Paul was chosen to be a vessel to invite all people- even the Gentiles of his time and those thought to be outside of the covenant or of salvation—into “the Joyful , liberating, intoxicating, message,” of God’s love, and that we as followers of Christ have same responsibility.
“We are his instrument to invite all children to encounter him, fall in love with him, and respond to him,” he said.
The bishop said the power of the scripture is a challenge for us to be honest with ourselves; not only to understand the message but to live it in our hearts as we deal with social justice issues.
“We as nation and as people of faith continue the journey to confront the evil of racism in our midst,” he said, noting that racism holds people back and denies opportunity based on the color of someone’s skin or their country of origin.
Even those with the best of intentions to heal and reform the Church must guard against “a growing self-righteousness in the Church in which people are dividing themselves into groups and camps based on preference or their understanding of the tradition,” he said.
He said that such thinking “Sometimes overtly, sometimes more subtly, creates divisions that restrict God’s generous love and creates ‘have’s and have-nots.’”
The danger of thinking that there is only one way forward is that someone chooses “ another portion of tradition, another way to pray, or another language,” that somehow they may become part of the have-nots” who are not welcome or equal, he said.
“In God’s eyes, that’s a lie. In God’s eyes, we are all loved wildly, generously, irrevocably,” he said.
The bishop began his homily by noting that as a young man he had little interest or understanding of history, but that over the past ten years he has developed a great interest in the story of the past.
“History is the narrative of the human experience, the expose of the human heart and its challenges, triumphs and sufferings.”
The bishop said that when he looks into the eyes of his grandnephew and niece–three and five-years old respectively– he wonders when they reach the age of 61, as he is now, what they’ll read about the history of our own generation in light of the challenges we face and the teaching of the gospel.
“Faced with this basic revelation and truth, when the history is written of my life and yours is written, what will they read?” he asked.
In brief remarks following Mass the Bishop invited all to join in the ongoing “Conversation about Race” webinar series sponsored by the Leadership Institute, and he said now is the time to confront vestiges of racism in the Church
“As we admit and face clear-sightedly the sins of the past and those that endure in our midst, can we dare to hope that we can write a new chapter of history in which all God’s children are treated equally and lovingly and united together to offer the message of salvation to a waiting world. I pray that it is a reality through you and me.”
Conversations about Race: The webinar series, features talks by teachers and pastoral ministers, began on July 30 will run through September 3. The talks are live-streamed at 1 pm each Thursday and then rebroadcast at 7 pm each evening, with a question and answer sessions moderated by a member of the diocesan ad hoc committee against racism. (To view a recording of previous webinars, visit this page and click “previous webinars: https://formationreimagined.org/events-home/.)
BISHOP’S ONLINE MASS: The Bishop’s Sunday Mass is released online every Sunday morning at 8 a.m. and available for replay throughout the day. To view the Bishop’s Sunday Mass, recorded and published weekly, click this link or visit the YouTube Mass Playlist.