for Sunday, August 20, 2017
Today the readings give us teaching about non-Jewish people being redeemed. For most of us, that is something that we have always believed. But we need to remember that this was a new idea for many at the time of Jesus. The Prophets had foretold that salvation would go to the nations, those who were not born of Jewish blood. Nevertheless, the Jewish people were not quick to accept this teaching. Even Jesus often speaks and tells us that He was sent for "His own people," the Jewish people, as we hear in today's Gospel.
Even today, we can find people who believe that all who are not Catholic will go to Hell. This is clearly against the Catholic teaching. On the other hand, there is no teaching that says that all will be saved, and especially that all will be saved without doing anything. There must be some response to God, even if it is not clear to the person. But God's mercy is incredible. Just as in the time of Jesus, Jesus Himself could open wider the doors of salvation, so now the Church can open wide the doors of salvation: but it is always through Jesus and through His Church.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah and proclaims to the Jewish people of that time that outsiders could be saved: "The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants-all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer." These are foreigners who seem to remain foreigners and yet follow the ways of the Jewish people. The point of the Prophet Isaiah is that all can be saved. Yet he is not saying that all are saved.
The second reading is from the Letter to the Romans and basically emphasizes once again that non-Jews can be saved and invited to salvation in Jesus Christ. One of the points that Saint Paul is making is that God's Covenant with the Jewish People is irrevocable and still in place. We must always remember that our salvation has come through the Jewish people and that our New Covenant does not invalidate the Old Covenant with them.
Finally the Gospel of Matthew presents us with a Canaanite woman. This woman clearly loves her daughter and wants healing for her daughter. She loves her daughter enough that she is willing to accost Jesus and even argue with him for the healing of her daughter. The words of Jesus to her sound harsh to us but are also a lesson to us: faith happens and is not confined to the Jewish people or to the Christian people. Faith can be present, even faith in Jesus, without a complete belief in the ways that we might wish.
It is clear, however, that the normal way to God is through Jesus Christ and through His Church. Today everyone wants to be the exception and this seems often only from insecurity. Rather we need to become secure enough in God's love that we can become ordinary believers.
Readings of the day:
First Reading: Isaiah 56.1, 6-7
Second Reading: Romans 11.13-15, 29-32
Gospel: Matthew 15.21-28
Reflections are available for the following Sundays: