The prophet Isaiah reminds his contemporaries that those who believe in God are always welcome into God’s presence, on the mountain of the Lord. Faith in God expressed through obedience to God’s Word, makes one is eligible to enter into God’s presence. All believers will climb the mountain of the Lord.
This reality described by Isaiah is put into practice in today’s Gospel reading. The Canaanite woman approaches Jesus requesting him to heal her daughter. Jesus at first seems unwilling to listen to the cries to this “foreigner” saying that he was only sent to look out for the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Jesus’ unresponsiveness to this woman may strike us as uncharacteristic or shocking. Yet in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is directed primarily to the people of Israel. At only a very few points, such as the one found in today’s Gospel, do we find Jesus anticipating the Christian ministry to the rest of the world. However, the woman cleverly turns Jesus’ insult into an expression of faith. Jesus responds by granting her request and heals her daughter.
Through this Gospel text we understand the early Christian community’s struggle to understand how God’s selection of Israel is consistent with two events: Israel’s rejection of Jesus and the Gentiles’ acceptance of Jesus. Just as Jesus was surprised by the faith expressed by the Canaanite woman, so too the first Christians were surprised that the Gentiles would receive the salvation God offered through Christ. In today’s Second Reading from Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear the apostle Paul considering this same concern.
The faith that the Canaanite woman expresses is an affirmation of and confidence in God’s abundant mercy. Yes, salvation comes through Israel, but it overflows for the benefit of all.
Love and Adventure
Fr. Terence Pereira