One of the major pushes of the modern age is inclusion. This is nothing new. The Prophet Isaiah reminds us on the 21st Sunday of the year that the Lord comes to gather “nations of every language.” Even the Gentiles, or the non-Jewish-chosen-ones of the earth will take their place among the priesthood.
In Biblical theology a priest is a mediator between God and His people. Isaiah tells us that the great inclusion of God consists in Him accepting even non-Israelites as mediators, priests, between Himself and His people because they have accepted Him and will live holy lives.
At the same time there is great hardship associated with such dignity.
The Letter to the Hebrews, written as a reflection on the Priesthood of Christ as the one final and true mediator, says “God treats you as sons,” and as such He disciplines us by not yet granting us full restoration of the paradise of Eden. In fact, “for whom the Lord loves, He disciplines” like any parent to a child.
God’s love is His great inclusion. However, divine love does not mean accepting irresponsibility. His allowance of trails in our lives is no sign of His absence, but instead of His great care. This is why Jesus says “strive to enter through the narrow gate” in order to be saved.
Many, Jesus says, will not be strong enough to enter into the gates of eternal paradise. Some will say that they ate with Him by attending Mass, but Jesus says He will not recognize them. Others might say that they heard Him through the Scriptures. To some of these too the Lord will not allow entrance.
For Jesus the great inclusion is rooted in authentic love, which means seeking what is best for the one loved and what every priest, lay or ordained, should do. This is indeed a narrow path and it does not at all mean that everyone must be accepted as they are at any moment in time.
Grace can be gained and abandoned. This is why we sometimes do not sense our faith to be as strong as it once was, or why there is always hope for it to return. Every decision we make in freedom affects the way God’s grace will work in us.
Often, out of a false understanding of universal inclusion, people will leave the Church because they are upset by some policy or another. Individuals seeking to be Godparents, for instance, will often complain when told that they need to be registered and attending Mass faithfully for a suitable period of time, showing attendance by use of envelopes. They will object that although unregistered, they attend Mass faithfully; some object that use of envelopes means the Church only cares about money.
The truth is that such policies are rooted in God’s love and Jesus’ words about a narrow gate. All parishes routinely accept empty envelopes and the only way they can stand before God in conscience to testify that someone is suited to be a good witness to a Catholic Christian child, having lived up to Christ’s narrow gate of attending Mass faithfully — doing “this in memory of me” — is by use of some record. To be a Godparent is to serve as a priest between God and child by good witness of life.
We have to get to the point where we gain joy out of our faith. It’s the only thing that lasts in a changing world and it’s the only cause of ultimate joy so it needs to be appreciated and fully understood. The great inclusion of God is His acceptance all accept Him and His authority.
Read more about Catholics like you by subscribing to The Catholic Miscellany