For my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.
Thus says the Lord GOD,
who gathers the dispersed of Israel:
Others will I gather to him
besides those already gathered. (Isaiah 56: 7b-8)
“We don’t serve people because they are Catholic; we serve them because we are.” (Proclaimed and modeled by any number of Catholic Charities spokespersons.)
When the author of today’s first reading was writing, the Jewish people had returned to Judah from exile. Perhaps most importantly, they were able to worship together again in the Jerusalem Temple. But the writer reminds them, and us, that God seeks to be the loving God to all nations, not just the descendants of Abraham. This theme is reinforced in the Psalm response:
O God, let all the nations praise you!
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
My friend Randy messaged me the other day after learning about one evangelical church’s outreach to Somalis in Green Bay: “Is there a Somali presence in the Catholic Church?”
“Very little as far as baptized Catholics,” I replied. Somalis tend to be Muslim. Of course, Catholic Charities works very closely with Somali resettlement.”
I was happy for the teachable moment to explain the catholic (universal) mission of Catholic Charities. As Advent readings from Isaiah remind us time and time again, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is the God of all nations.
Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky reminds us of this kinship of all people when he references Pope Francis’ encyclical Fratelli tutti: “…Not only does (Pope Francis) celebrate the interrelationship of all creation and of the whole human family… he elaborates on the interrelationship of all the issues that threaten human existence, human dignity and human life today….”
This Advent, may we celebrate the fact that Catholic Charities is one of the Catholic Church’s ministries that extends the Savior’s love and compassion to people of all or no religious traditions.
Steve Herro is a Norbertine brother from St. Norbert Abbey, De Pere, Wisconsin. Positively influenced by his past ministry to CCUSA, he presently serves the Church as a trained spiritual director, archivist, and blogger.