30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Reflection: It’s time to accept all God’s people


When we peruse the Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, we encounter narratives and poems describing the many hardships, struggles and injustices of biblical times.

Nations and kingdoms rival one another. Assyrian, Egyptian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman empires rise and fall. Monarchs, princes, wealthy landlords and dishonest merchants enforce corrupt laws to enrich themselves — leaving many people, especially small farmers, disenfranchised. Wars pollute the land, destroying human and non-human life as women and children become widowed and fatherless, respectively. Political and social oppression leads to forced migration, exile and landlessness. 

Biblical times were not so different from contemporary times. Countries are at war with one another as U.S. leaders work to maintain the nation’s empire status. China, Russia and North Korea form new alliances in their quest for power. The Israeli and Palestinian conflict rages on. Oligarchs control the global economic system. Corporate agribusinesses gobble up small family farms. Landlords raise rents as lenders increase mortgage rates, making it difficult for middle income and low wage earners to either stay in their rentals or buy homes and property. The power brokers of the Global North continue to self-enrich at the expense of the Global South.

Ironically, in 2023, economic statistics show that poverty has increased in the U.S., the land of plenty. Economic data also indicates that the recent global pandemic created many new billionaires among the western technology and pharmaceutical companies, making their CEOs and presidents our new global bio-techno-feudal lords.

We live in a changed world with more changes on the horizon. Now is the time to become more economically, socially and politically astute, as we try to navigate the new terrain upon which we have yet to gain our footing. 

Reading and interpreting this Sunday’s biblical texts from the perspective of the world in front of the text and in dialogue with contemporary experiences, we discover that the first reading from the book of Exodus and the Gospel reading from the book of Matthew are clarion calls to right relationship. Despite all our advancement on so many levels throughout three millennia, human beings have yet to be able to live peacefully and justly with one another. 

In the Exodus reading, focus is on those who are “other,” harshly translated as “aliens” as if they were not part of humanity. In this narrative, the Israelites are reminded not to oppress the “other” among them because as Israelites, they were once a people living in a land not their own, migrants seeking asylum from severe famines and massive starvation. 

For many countries today, immigration and fair and just treatment of immigrants continue to be a major challenge, especially in the United States where immigration reform has yet to happen as people of different ethnicities, cultures and races seek asylum from horrific political and social oppression. How do we non-Native American U.S. citizens whose ancestors were immigrants”others” themselves — treat today’s immigrants? Sadly, some of us who are descendants of immigrants have forgotten who we are, and some of us continue our history of colonization, disenfranchisement and oppression. 

It’s time for history to stop repeating itself by “othering.” It’s time to work for political, social, economic and environmental justice ever more arduously to abolish sexism, racism, ableism, colorism, ethnocentrism, Islamophobia, xenophobia, sexual orientation discrimination and the many more forms of discrimination that keep the “other” disenfranchised and on the margins.

The Holy One is part of the margins, lives on the margins, is embodied in the margins, is actively listening to and working for the margins with active divine compassion. The litmus test for people of any faith and spirituality today is the measure of how deep their active compassion is for the “other” among them which also includes non-human life, the new migrants of climate change. Active compassion entails changing oppressive structures, systems and ways of thinking.

The Gospel reading from the book of Matthew complements the first reading from Exodus. Increasingly, nations’ governments are moving toward authoritarianism even among democracies. Fundamentalism and literalism are on the rise as people search for absolutes, law and order and certainty among sacred texts, constitutions and religious systems of thought. In some countries, political, social and economic laws are now shaped by culturally conditioned religious laws and culturally conditioned religious attitudes, making the separation between church and state an experience of the past. The United States is no exception. 

Yet, the Gospel is clear. Law is not the means to the deep transformation needed in our world today; relationships create the pathways. For believers, the deeper the relationship one has with the Divine, the greater the flow of positive energy into self, an energy felt as love, that enlarges hearts and minds, compelling all to do the hard work of all-embracing justice without which no right relationship or transformation is possible. 

First Reading

(Exodus 22: 20-26)

Thus says the LORD:
“You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. 
You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry. 
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him. 
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. 
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

Responsorial Psalm

(Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51)

Second Reading

(I Thessalonians 1: 5c-10)

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. 
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything. 
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.


(Matthew 22: 34-40)

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 
He said to him,
“You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”