Reflection & Dialogue: All are welcome within the Church, but in keeping with the terms of the covenant

In the first reading, there was mention of a new age for the people of God, with an opening to foreigners and others to the house of God, a house of prayer for all peoples, but presupposing their good works and their fidelity to the covenant. In the parable on the wedding banquet and the wedding garment (Matthew 22:1-14), when the invitation to the wedding banquet was not accepted the king sent his servants who gathered from the streets the good and the bad, so that the wedding hall was filled with guests. Then when the king saw that there was one not wearing a wedding robe he had him cast out. The lesson to be drawn from this is that there are conditions attached to the open invitation to the messianic feast, here on earth to membership of the church. There has been, and will be, a certain tension between the invitation to membership of the Church, the House of God, and the demands arising from the covenant with God and the mission of the Church. According the Christ himself, his followers are intended to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and the early Church took this very seriously in her teaching and practice.

From this there arose, and still arises for the Church, the question as to how to combine fidelity to Christ’s teaching and her own mission and failings arising from human weakness. Matthew’s own community was severe enough on the person who refused to make amends with one of his fellow Christians – by exclusion from the community. Paul took an equally severe attitude towards a Christian in Corinth guilty of marital misconduct. This is a problem that will always be with us, arising from the call of the Church by Christ to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and behaviour running contrary to this.

There has been a long history of the Church in this matter, with, for a long period, heavy penalties for the errant. The problem is currently being discussed in the Church, especially with regard to the question of Holy Communion for divorced and remarried persons, and as regards to admission of certain non-Catholics to Holy Communion. Fundamentally it is a question of how reconcile the infinite mercy of God with fidelity to the demands of the covenant and Christ’s message for the world. One can only pray that a satisfactory solution will be found.

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