God's Grace is Available to All
In the Gospel today, Jesus is being sought by a Canaanite woman who wants Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus’ initial response to the woman may seem a bit harsh. First, He ignores her. Then after she has hounded and badgered Jesus’ disciples, they ask Jesus to do something for her. Jesus’ speaks about the benefits and blessings offered first to the Jewish people. The term “dog” was a common phrase for Gentiles during the time of Jesus. With persistence and faith, the woman responds to Jesus’ words by saying that even the dogs have a right to the leftovers from their masters’ table. Turning to the woman, Jesus commends her faith and promises healing for her daughter.
There is a temptation to think of God’s grace as handed out in a neat, orderly way — as something reserved for the God-fearing elect, the People of God. Historically, many of our forebears adopted this view, and they (and we!) require the universalist message of Isaiah in the First Reading: “God wants a house of prayer open to all the nations.” Through the Canaanite woman’s humility, cleverness and persistence, Jesus came to recognize her great faith and grace was given to her. We need to remember that Jesus came to save all of humanity and that healing grace is not just available to us but rather to everybody.
We call ourselves “catholic.” The word means “universal.” We need to practice that in our dealing with others. Our God is the God of all peoples. We limit God’s love when we think less of people who are not of the same religious tradition as we are. We are not being faithful to the Lord Jesus who has come that all might have life and life to the full. Our faith should lead us to being universal in our concern for others. We should work together with, and for, all individuals no matter what their profession of faith. At the same time, we must be authentic to what we believe and willing to share our view of who God is, but we must not be unloving to those who disagree with us. We should want to show them the same compassion and mercy that Jesus shows to them in today’s Gospel.
The question that I leave you with is, to whom might I reach out in a more understanding and compassionate way today? This week?
God bless you folks, Father Gerard.