Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. 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; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
All of the readings today are about God’s desire to save everyone. Probably most of us have a basic desire for the salvation of everyone, but when it comes to particular people, there are often some that we would at least consider as candidates for hell! At least many of the people that I know generally want most people to be saved.
The real challenge of salvation is to want those to be saved who have harmed us. There is that incredible story of the mother who adopted the young man who killed her own son. Every time that I hear a version of that story, my heart is moved. I am not even convinced that it is a true story, but it illustrates a capacity of love beyond what most of us have.
When we think that Jesus chose to die for us, we are also speaking about a love that is incomprehensible to us at so many levels. Yet Jesus invites us to live that same way. We are invited to pardon all those who have offended us and to ask pardon of all those whom we have offended.
It should become clear to us that if we want all people to be saved, then we ourselves must be willing to love all people. This is the type of living that Jesus did here on earth. He lived and taught by his example, his way of living and his way of relating to others. The story in today’s Gospel is very strong because of this way of thinking. Jesus does not want to help the Canaanite woman who asks His help. Jesus is convinced that his call from God is to help his own Jewish people. And that is indeed His call: to help His own people. But He needs to grow in His understanding of who His people are.
All of us must go through this process of widening our horizons. We must learn in a very practical way that every other person is my sister, my brother, my mother, my father. We are invited to love every other person and desire their eternal salvation. This way of loving others is always put to the test when we meet someone who is really difficult to love.
The first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah, is about loving people who don’t belong to our own religious group, but who are honestly seeking the living God. The second reading is directly about the role of the Jewish people in salvation history and we must be attentive to understand and respect their role and to love the ways of the Lord. The Gospel brings us back to this Canaanite woman who simply cries out to God for help for her daughter.
So today we can think about several challenges to our way of thinking. Do we love anyone enough to cry out to the Lord day and night for their well-being? If not, then we need to work at loving more. If we do love someone or some others with that much love, are we willing to love our enemies with that same intensity of love? If not, then perhaps we need still to work at loving more. If we are willing to love all people, are we then willing to give our lives for them? This is the ultimate challenge of living the Gospel today: to live as Jesus lived in every aspect of our lives—today and every day.
Let us give thanks for the faith that is given us and ask our loving God to increase our faith. Let us ask that we can have the courage and conviction to love all others and to love our enemies and to give thanks to the Lord for His love for us.