Saturday Meditation: Welcoming the outcast

Refugees in the wilderness photo

Saturday after Ash Wednesday

By a St. Michael’s parishioner

4 March

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

PSALM 86:1-11 ▪ ISAIAH 58:9b-14 ▪ LUKE 5:27-32

Today’s readings point to our imperative to welcome and help the outcast, the detested, the troubled. As Isaiah sang:

‘If you take away from you the midst of the yoke, the pointing of the finger, and the speaking wickedness, if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.’ (Isaiah 58:9b-10)

Physical attacks against Muslims, Jews, people of color and LGBTQ people are rising. Threats of forced registration of Muslims hover like a miasma. Millions of people may lose their (frayed, ragged) economic safety net.

It’s time to assess: How will I react when I witness affliction? Will I hunker down . . . or will I pour myself out? Will I help the kid being beaten on the subway for wearing a kippah? Will I join an “I Am Spartacus”-like movement and register as a Muslim, should such registration become the law of the land?

That’s a lot. But God expects even more.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus does not despise the evil-doers (tax collectors in his story, bullies in ours). He respects their innate dignity, meets with them, eats with them, and tries to draw them toward repentance.

We are called to follow Jesus’ example: to protect the afflicted— while still loving the afflicters and gently calling them to turn themselves around.

Somehow.

It’s time to ask: Am I ready? Can I do this? How, specifically, will I?