Reaching Out To Jesus With Faith
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
My dear encountered couples:
Jesus told the Canaanite woman that his mission was only to the lost tribe of Israel. The Jews were the chosen people of God and it was to them that Jesus came. During his life, we find others reaching out to him for favors and salvation from their problems. He never turned them aside.
Since Adam and Eve, the human race fell into deep ignorance about God and the purpose of life. Many gods with human characteristics were invented and presented to the people for worship. Human sacrifice was practiced by some as a way to please and satisfy these gods so that they would not bring their anger upon the people. It was a sad situation. God selected Abraham and his descendants, the Jewish people, to be the nation of people through whom he intended to teach the world about the true God and the real purposes of life. Thus, the Jews are called the Chosen People of God. After about two thousand years of trying to instruct the Jews through their own prophets and special leaders, the Son of God became one of them. We call him Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to first announce to the Jews salvation from sins and to teach them the principles of perfect living and loving. When people not Jewish approached him for favors, he responded by answering their needs. Though it generally was not to be until the time of the apostles that salvation was formally announced to the gentiles, the pagans or non-Jews of the world, salvation was meant for everyone.
In today's gospel passage Jesus acts out the part of those people who think that God is only meant for a select few. The Jews thought he was their God only. Some Christian people today think he only loves them and those others who accept the same teachings as they believe in. With some kind of exclusive priority certain people live under the allusion that they and their kind are more special than everyone else - that they have been picked to go to paradise while everyone else has been assigned to you know where - unending hell.
Today's reading has Jesus showing how ridiculous that kind of thinking is. When the Canaanite woman begged Jesus to come and cure her daughter who was troubled by a demon, he responded, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She pleaded with him, “Help me, Lord!” But Jesus answered, “It is not right to take the food of sons and daughters and throw it to the dogs.” Very wisely she didn't give up, but said, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the leavings that fall from their masters' tables.” That was enough playacting for Jesus. He then said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your wish will come to pass.” And we're told, “That very moment her daughter got better.”
God loves everyone. No one is excluded by him from that love. Salvation is for every human being ever to exist. Jesus tried to get that point across. Assuredly most of his time was taken up trying to draw the Jews to believing in him. Two thousand years did not make much of a dent on their intelligences and hearts.
There still was plenty they had misunderstood and had not accepted. So he had to spend most of his time trying to smarten them up. But he had no intention of presenting heaven as the exclusive dominion of anyone nationality or race of people. It was and is meant for everyone.
This Canaanite woman could not have had too much understanding of the truths of God. But she had that which is basically necessary for anyone to receive the love and forgiveness God always offers to everyone. She had the intelligence to admit that she needed God's help, whoever and whatever he happened to be. She reached out to Jesus whom she sensed was special in God's eyes. It was her faith in him that Jesus praised; it was her faith that made it possible for her daughter to be cured.
Anyone with even a speck of faith who reaches out to God receives him and is able to be drawn by God into everlasting happiness. It is easier for those who have available all the teachings and truths of God. But that is not all there is to it. The Jews had more of the teachings and truths than any other nation of people, but many of them rejected the teachings that Jesus added to their knowledge. As Catholics, we have all the teachings that God has revealed up to this point in history. But how much do we understand them, how much do we accept them, how much do we even try to live in accordance with them? It is very possible that some unnoticed, unwashed, scantily clothed, illiterate, and clumsy native living in the darkest recesses of a slum or jungle has as much chance of salvation as the most highly educated, sophisticated, renowned member of the Church. Both can possibly be led by God to salvation if they have at least some measure of an ounce of genuine faith, and reach out for help.
People of every color, of every nationality, of every political persuasion, of every lifestyle, of every religion - and of no religion at all - are loved by God. Jesus died for them all. And he and his Father and the Holy Spirit are doing their darndest to get them all into heaven. From the high priest of the Jewish people to the Canaanite woman Jesus offers himself and God to be at their service twenty-four hours a day and throughout eternity. Each and every person is special to God and he offers each one the exclusive and community gift of himself.
If anyone does not receive God and salvation, it is because that person chooses not to. Some may be under the illusion that their presence here in this church at Mass every week shows that they have chosen God and salvation. This is not necessarily true. Church-going can become a tradition and a habit - even to the point where God is not really believed in nor loved. This seems to have happened to some of the Jews at the time of Jesus.
Check yourself out often and see if it is by faith you are living, or if it is by mere habit and convenience. It is possible that any faith we may ever have to become hazy and inactive while we still go through the physical motions of religious practices. Discover if you more and more are depending upon your own abilities and what your money will buy, or if, like the Canaanite woman, you often reach out to Jesus with faith, and make the request, “Help me, Lord!”