Brotherhood of the Crumbs

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"Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the Master's table."
—Matthew 15:27

Today's Eucharistic readings point us to one of the central tensions of the Gospel and the Christian life: the dynamic relationship between inclusion and exclusion.

On one hand, the Church should be the most inclusive, serving, and enterable institutions in the world. Salvation is, after all, God's free gift, given for all. Like life, it is meted out freely by God through the mechanisms of the material world, but it is more or less independent of it. The Church seeks to articulate and embody this truth, radiating the healing and reconciliation she has received through Christ.

It seems somewhat incongruous that Christians would become so passionate about defining human communities and creating rigorous requirements to mark out the saved from the rest of humanity.

Yet on the other hand, these boundaries are necessary. With entry requirements too low or non-existent, our religion would be unable to seriously propagate itself, and would quickly cease to exist in any identifiable form.

How can the transforming work of Christ take place in a way that is both utterly catholic, yet respectful of the integrity of existing communities?

The primary answer from this set of Scriptures is that the work is done by God. It is not contingent upon the perfection of our vision and the strength of our aptitudes. Indeed, it may be happening beyond our perception, even beyond our comprehension. We are invited to be witnesses to the process, and occasionally used as an instrument of his work. In any case, we should behave in a way that is respectful of the unfolding mystery.

As Christians, we have access to the Bread of Life. We can be confident in this fact to the extent that we have experienced, and continue to experience this to be true. Being secure in this identification, we should be comfortable understanding the grace-experiences of our friends of other faiths as being crumbs of that same loaf.

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