My father had a great mantra: "There’s always room for one more." At the dinner table or school car pool, he could always make room for one more. We didn’t know how it could be done, but we regularly made room for one more. He possessed a profound understanding of what it meant to be generous. And generosity is most evident in the act of including, not excluding.
All of us want to be included. Nothing reveals this basic desire like the experience of being excluded. Told we don’t belong can leave lasting and devastating scars. Different than not making the cut for a team or not getting the job we applied for – sour as those experiences can be – the experience of being left out or expelled says that we are not good enough or love-able enough.
The readings for today get into the difficult subject of predestination and who is or is not saved, topics that are better left to theologians to explore. It seems to me, though, that our limited human capacity to comprehend God’s gracious love leaves us with the false dichotomy that if some are included then others must be excluded. We live today in a world that too often pits one person against another, one party against the other, one religion against another, one country against another.
God’s love is all inclusive. It invites us into community with Jesus and one another. The ministry of Jesus, like that of a good shepherd, is to gather us together, not scatter us or run us off. And the refrain of the psalm response, "My hope, O Lord, is in your loving kindness," can be our mantra today. We don’t always understand how or why God loves each of us unconditionally, but we count on there always being room for one more.
Robert Hotz is a consultant with American City Bureau, Inc. and is the Director of The Passion of Christ: The Love That Compels Campaign for Holy Cross Province.