God of all nations

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014


THIS Sunday’s gospel (Matthew 15:1-28) narrates the story of the Canaanite woman who persistently followed Jesus, pleading that he cures her daughter who was being tormented by a demon. Three times she was rebuffed by Jesus---first by his silence, second by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” and third, by the degrading statement, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

What was the woman’s reaction? Did she stop at Jesus’ gesture of ignoring her? Was she discouraged by Jesus’ words that he was sent only to Israel? Did she get angry at Jesus’ reference to non-Israelites as being like dogs? The answer to these last three questions was no.

The woman was not cowed to inaction. She was not discouraged by claims of spiritual exclusivity. Neither was she offended being branded like a dog. Through it all, Jesus was testing her faith, and she stood victorious over the tests.

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She said, Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Now look at Jesus’ reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

From this story, some reflections are in order.

First, the Israel of the olden times is in fact the shadow of the present-day Church. St. Paul writes, “For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly… Rather a person is a Jew who is one inwardly… Such a person receives praise not from others but from God” (Romans 8:28-29).

Believers of Christ are the Jews inwardly. It is for us that the Lord Jesus was sent. We are God’s children, and included in our food is the food of salvation and healing.

Second, while it is true that God first sought Israel, the fullness of his plan, when revealed, was to offer salvation to everyone who believes (John 3:16, 1 Timothy 2:4). God shows no partiality; he does not play favorites (Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11).

Lastly, God is moved by his children’s faith. Repeatedly, he said to those he healed, “Your faith has made you well.” This was true to the woman with hemorrhage (Mark 5:34), to the blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52) and to the ten lepers (Luke 17:19). This was also true for the woman in this Sunday’s gospel who interceded for her demon-tormented daughter.

Truly, as the First Reading (Isaiah 56:1, 6-7) tells us, we who were once foreigners in the faith but who join ourselves with the LORD find joy in the house of God. For as the Second Reading (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) declares, “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” One with all the peoples of the world, we can thus sing this Sunday’s responsorial psalm, “O God, let all the nations praise you!”

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on August 14, 2014.

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