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INSIDERS, OUTSIDERS

R.I.P., FR. ADOLFO NICOLAS, SJ
May 20, 2020
“ACTS OF GOD”
May 22, 2020

Homily for Thursday of the Sixth Week of Easter, 21 May 2020, Jn 16:16-20

Last week, I used the word MIRON and I realized from the comments that there were some people who were not familiar with the word. It is a borrowed Tagalog word, I mean, borrowed from Spanish. It comes from the Spanish verb MIRAR, which means TO WATCH or TO LOOK AT. In its neutral sense, it simply means one who is looking or observing.
What has this got to do with our readings? A lot. Did you know that Christianity spread like fire in the first century because St. Paul took the MIRONS seriously? Who were the MIRONS in the first century, you might ask? We hear about them in today’s first reading.
They were the OUTSIDERS during the Sabbath Jewish services. In the first century, there were two types of audiences in the Jewish synagogues—the ancient equivalents of our parish Churches today. On the one hand there were the INSIDERS—namely, those who were counted as regular members of the synagogue community who were Jewish by ethnicity, circumcised males from age 13 above. On the other hand there were the OUTSIDERS; these are the ones I call the MIRONS.
They are not Jewish from birth even if they show interest in the Jewish faith and attend synagogue services. Strictly speaking they are categorized as Greeks, or Gentiles, but they are practically Jews by faith, minus the ethnicity. They were often called “God-fearing Gentiles” or as “Gentile Converts” or “Proselytes.”
Judaism was never really a missionary kind of faith, the Jews did not really go out of their way to convert people or welcome them to their religion. Since their religion was at the same time their ethnicity, even longtime converts to their faith remained outsiders. They never really got integrated among the insiders. At most, the insiders in the Synagogue community constructed an outward corridor for them that was called the “Courtyard of the Gentiles,” but they remained segregated from the mainstream insiders. (Kumbaga sa exclusive clubs, only card holding members allowed inside.) Why? Because they were not Jewish from birth, not circumcised, not disposed to observe Sabbath and Jewish customs, like food regulations.
Ironically, despite its snobbishness the Jewish faith tended to attract the Greeks. The Greek temples had gods and goddesses, but they had no Scriptures, no Sacred books. Judaism was therefore considered as a very highly literate, educated and wisdom-oriented kind of religion.
You won’t believe this but according to historians, at some point during the 1st century, there were more NON-JEWS going to the Synagogue than mainstream JEWS themselves. Meaning, there were more MIRONS than mainstream members. And these outsiders showed greater interest in the preaching of the rabbis than the actual regular participants did.
Perhaps because the regular members had gotten so familiar with the services, many of them were not really paying attention anymore. They tended to take it for granted that they were already “saved” because they were legitimate children of Abraham, and they fulfilled their religious duties and obligations.
But the mirons were different; they were not there because of duty or obligation. They were sincerely curious about the Scriptures; they also listened attentively to the rabbinical interpretation. But they were not taken seriously. Why? Because they did not belong. Even if they had been attending synagogue worship for many years, they remained unqualified for inclusion into the mainstream.
In principle, Paul himself was an insider. He was himself Jewish by ethnicity and was even educated by Pharisees. Luke tells us that each time Paul visited a city, he looked for a synagogue where he could join the local Jewish community in their Sabbath services and public worship. He was often even invited as a guest preacher. However, whenever they heard him saying anything about Jesus of Nazareth, the insiders got turned off. Christianity, as it were, became for them what people today call a “conversation stopper.” They treated Paul and the early Christians suspiciously as promoters of a strange cult.
Luke tells us that at some point when Paul got tired of being rejected by the insiders, he turned to the Gentiles who were eavesdropping outside. When he saw that he had a bigger audience of MIRONS waiting in the courtyard, who seemed to him to be genuinely interested in what he was saying about Jesus, he turned his attention to them instead.
What is amusing in Luke’s story is that one of these serious MIRONS was living just next door to the synagogue; his name was Titus Justus. Not only would he welcome Paul into his house, some insiders would get out of the synagogue and choose to listen to Paul in the house of Titus Justus. They would eventually form what would later be called the “ekklesia kat’oikon”, or the HOUSE CHURCHES. These were the beginnings of the Church. They were the original exemplars for what today would be called BEC (basic ecclesial community), before they grew into parishes.
Was Paul being innovative in his strategies of evangelization? Not really. He was just following the way of Jesus. Remember how Jesus himself took the temple outsiders seriously—namely, the tax collectors, sinners, and outcasts in his time. As a consequence, he himself was treated like an outsider. And so he died OUTSIDE THE CITY—at the dump site of Jerusalem called Golgotha.
In the Gospel Jesus says, “A little while you won’t see me.” Meaning, he would disappear because he would be rejected and executed outside the city like a criminal. But “In a little while again you will see me,” meaning, he will return and bring a lot of people with him to conversion. His rejection will bring about the redemption of many outsiders, the last, the least, and the lost, whom he will seek out for inclusion into the family of the children of God. In short, he is saying, my disappearance will make you grieve; but my return will bring about redemption and will turn your grief into joy.
Friends out there, I know that many of you who have become regular followers of this Online Mass were not even the regular Church-going parokyano type before. Isn’t it strange that the Lord has used this pandemic as an opportunity to reach all of you, so that he could be present in your homes, nourish you constantly with his Word, and make you grow from CHURCH MIRONS to his beloved FRIENDS AND COMPANIONS in mission?

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