August 20, 2023

Isaiah 56 : 1, 6 – 7
Romans 11: 13 – 15, 29 – 32
Matthew 15: 21 – 28
In the liturgy of the Word today, we encounter and are made aware of the great truth that
salvation is for all, irrespective of one’s caste, creed, nationality or race. The salvation that God
our Father offers His children is for all ages. This is emphatically reiterated by Paul in our
second reading, when he tells us that “God’s gift and His call are irrevocable.”

Our lives are oriented and ordained toward realizing and experiencing the ‘image and likeness’ in
which we are created. Our receptivity to God’s grace releases us from the slavery of self-
deception and we freely share in the divine life, something which we can have communion with
the Lord.

In our first reading today, prophet Isaiah brings home to us the message that all people will be
drawn together in worship of God. The prophet’s call does not leave out anyone but includes
everyone, whether one is an Israelite or not. Everyone is invited to join and have communion
with the Lord.

St. Matthew presents us with a radical, dynamic and persevering example of faith. The
Canaanite woman, an outsider apparently rejected by Jesus, who does not heed her plea,
continues persistently in her prayer. She knows whom she is talking to and what He is capable of
doing for her. The woman trusts to and what He is capable of doing for her. The woman trusts
in Jesus in the depth of her heart an surrenders herself to His mercy. She waits in persevering
faith for Jesus to act.

The Canaanite woman, unlike Peter, begins with faith. She acknowledges who Jesus is – the
Lord, Son of David – and pays Him homage; only then does she pray for help and receives what

she asks for her daughter. The surprise and good news is that whether we begin in doubt and
then come to belief, or begin with great faith. Jesus responds; His mission is to bring salvation to

The persistent and trusting faith of the Canaanite woman teaches a great lesson. In faith there is
always room for mystery. As we do not know how the seed strikes root, shoots up and bears
fruit, we need to patiently wait, letting God act in His time, on His own terms and conditions.
Faith presupposes trust and this is what the woman so beautifully demonstrates. The willingness
to surrender to God the promise to connect us with our true selves and with the reality of God in
our lives and in the world.

The woman’s trust in the Lord enables her to enter and enjoy the deepest realm of life itself. Her
self-surrender helps her to believe Jesus is both able and willing to heal her daughter. Here is a
woman who refuses to believe her pleas are going ‘to the dogs’. She deeply believes in the Lord,
and it is through perseverance that she obtains her request.

By this incident, Jesus candidly brings home the powerful and challenging message that one’s
status of ‘son’ by itself does not assure the availability of salvation. The ‘dogs’ are also entitled
to be counted among the sheep and are raised to the status of children to inherit the redemption
that Jesus will obtain and make available to all.

The Lord is compassionate and merciful even when it seems He is not. We must be able to
endure being ignored, rejected and hurt, for these are the real tests of persevering and trusting
faith. In the face of adversity, we need to stand with unshakable faith that God will provide, in
the mysterious ways of His own divine providence. As the poet Longfellow wrote in Psalm of

“Let us then be up and doing, with a heart for any fate, still achieving, still pursuing, learn to
labour and to wait.”

Jesus is being sought by a Gentile woman who wants Jesus to heal her daughter.  Jesus’ initial
response to the woman may seem a bit harsh.  First, He ignores her. Then after she has hounded
and badgered Jesus’ disciples, they ask Jesus to do something for her. Jesus speaks about the
benefits and blessings offered first to the Jewish people. The term “dog” was a common
derogatory phrase used by Jews when speaking about Gentiles during the time of Jesus. With
persistence and faith, the woman responds to Jesus’ words by saying that even the dogs have a
right to the leftovers from their masters’ table. Turning to the woman, Jesus commends her faith
and promises healing for her daughter.

The readings remind me of two very important aspects of faith: the teachings of our faith are
Judaic in origin; the gift of faith is available to all who seek GOD. Both are essential to our
understanding of our relationship with GOD.

The original revelation and covenant relationship with the divine being (Whom we call the
LORD GOD) was established with the Abraham and his descendants. GOD intervened in the
life of a little known and lesser thought of people, the Hebrews. GOD touched the life of the
patriarchs and gave to them an insight into the one, true GOD. As the nation came to be known
by the name of the grandson of Abraham, Jacob-Israel, it continued to receive blessings from its
relationship as the Chosen People of GOD. Through Moses and the prophets the people came to
a greater understanding of this GOD.  They (the people of Israel) struggled (Israel means “one
who struggles with GOD”) with the understanding of this GOD as they tried to relate to this
GOD” At times they failed, and they followed the path of their neighbors. GOD, however, kept
reaching out and calling them back to the covenant GOD had made with them. GOD did not
want to relate only to the people of Israel. GOD wanted, and still wants, to be the GOD of all
people. In the fullness of time, GOD sent the Son to extend the gift of salvation not only to the
Jewish people but to all peoples. Jesus’ ministry began with (and for the most part dealt almost
exclusive with) the Jewish people. Yet, as John says in the prologue to his Gospel, “to His own
He came, but His own received Him not.” Thus, the message of salvation went out to all nations

through the work of St. Paul and the apostles. The challenge we receive today from the readings
is also two-fold: we need to come to an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the faith
handed down through the Hebrew people and scriptures; we need to realize more fully the
universality of GOD’s unconditional love. As a Christian, I can never forget, or fail to learn
from, the Hebrew scriptures and Judaic traditions.  We are Judeo-Christians. Our teachings,
worship, and lifestyle are touched and endowed with Judaic understanding. We need to study,
and reflect on, our Hebrew origins. We will come to a better understanding of Jesus and His
Abba-Father, Who happen to be GOD, if we know and appreciate our Jewish heritage. This
should lead to a more caring and positive respect for those who are of the Jewish faith and who
call upon the same GOD that we call upon. I call myself “catholic.” The word means
“universal.” I need to practice that in my dealing with others.  I know as a young person, I had
the misunderstanding that the only ones who had any religious truth were the members of the
Roman Catholic Church. I had the feeling that I was to avoid all other Christians, and especially
non-Christians, for GOD could not possibly care for them, at least not as he did for the
Catholics.  Yet, GOD is the GOD of all peoples. I limit GOD’s love when I think less of people
who are not of the same religious tradition as I am.  I am not being faithful to the Lord Jesus,
Who has come that all might have life and life to the full.  I do a disservice to my Master-Teacher
when I refuse to love and serve those for whom He died.  My faith should lead me to being
universal in my concern for others.  I must have the mind of St. Paul who worked for the spread
to, and acceptance of the GOOD News by, all peoples. I must work together with, and for, all
individuals no matter what their profession of faith.  Yes, I must be authentic to what I believe
and I must be willing to share my view of Who GOD is, but I must not be unloving to those who
disagree with me.  I should want to show them the same compassion and mercy that Jesus shows
to them, as is evident in the Gospel today. I must work for the spread of the faith to all people. If
I do that with a universal spirit, I may someday (especially in heaven) be able to sing with
today’s psalm response, “O GOD, let all the nations praise You!” Then, I might see that become
a reality.

God bless.