for the twentieth Sunday of the Year
Is 56:1 & 6-7 - Rom 11:13-15 & 29-32 - Mt 15:21-28
by Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
The House for all peoples
Is 56:1 & 6-7
Is 56:1, Thus says the Lord: Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my deliverance be revealed. 6, And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants, every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant -- 7, these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Under the Old Covenant, the men and women who could lay claim to the Salvation of God were of two kinds: Jews and non-Jews. These "foreigners" of whom Isaiah speaks (Is. 56:6), those who do not belong to the Chosen People as such, they too could, by the mercy of God, lay claim to the Salvation of God in the measure that they observed the same Law as the Chosen People: "Every one who keeps the sabbath, and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant -- these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer" (Is 56:6-7)
These "foreigners" or non-Jews were still called proselytes. They observed all or some of the Law. And so they came to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover. So much so that both Jews and non-Jews were present on the day of Pentecost, at the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles: "Both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians, we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God." (Acts 2:11)
Under the Old Covenant, there was but one Law, that of the Chosen People. To be saved, this was the Law that had to be followed. In a sense, if one were not a Jew, one had to become one, at least by observing the Law of the Chosen People. By doing so, men and women of every nation could lay claim to the Salvation of God and enter into what the Prophet calls, speaking in the name of the Lord, "my house of prayer for all peoples" (Is 56:7). So there was not yet a real extension of the Salvation of God to all peoples: one could only be saved if one were incorporated, as it were, into the one Chosen People, the Jewish People.
Rom 11:13-15 & 29-32
Rom 11:13, Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14, in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them. 15, For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead? 29, For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 30, Just as you were once disobedient to God but now have received mercy because of their disobedience, 31, so they have now been disobedient in order that by the mercy shown to you they also may receive mercy. 32, For God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all.
Under the New Covenant, it is no longer the Law of the Jewish People that joins together the faithful in view of their Salvation in Christ. Today, it is the Spirit of God, with his grace, who joins together the Christian faithful from every country of the earth. Today, it is the Law of Love, the new commandment of Christ, that allows one to hope, in faith, for the Salvation of God promised to all men of good will! "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (Jn 13:34) So it is Love that unites all men in the House of all the peoples: the Church!
When the first case of integrating gentiles into the young Church took place, there were discussions and quarrels about it among the Apostles, and notably between Peter and Paul. This led to what we call the Council of Jerusalem: "But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up, and said, «It is necessary to circumcise them, and to charge them to keep the law of Moses.» The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter." (Acts 15:5-6) The final decision was set down in a letter that said, among other things, "It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." (Acts 15:28-29)
Mt 15:21, And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22, And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, «Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.» 23, But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, «Send her away, for she is crying after us.» 24, He answered, «I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.» 25, But she came and knelt before him, saying, «Lord, help me.» 26, And he answered, «It is not fair to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.» 27, She said, «Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.» 28, Then Jesus answered her, «O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.» And her daughter was healed instantly.
All of us, from no matter what nation or people we belong to, follow, in Christ, the Law of Love: "Love one another!" As Saint Paul, the apostle to the gentiles, says, "God has consigned all men to disobedience, that he may have mercy upon all." (Rom 11:32)
Is this not what the Canaanite woman cries at Jesus' feet? Do you not hear her beg the Lord: "Mercy! Mercy!" And the Lord heard her: "Then Jesus answered her, «O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.» And her daughter was healed instantly." (Mt 15:28)
We are in and live in the Law of Love. It is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, who has guided the Church since her foundation. Let us allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit! Let us acknowledge that the Jewish People is and will always remain the Chosen People of God, but let us welcome into the Church every man of good will!
May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, full of grace and full of God's Love for all men, teach us Life in the Spirit, in order that we might live united in the House of all peoples!