Everything up to the time of Jesus, the notion of salvation was that it was going to be for the Jews, a specific chosen people. Yet, during the age of prophets, there was a sense that the Kingdom of God would encompass the whole world, that people of every nation and language would come together and worship God. We see this in the first reading from Isaiah, where he mentions that foreigners will come to worship God, to love and serve him. Thus, His house would be a house of prayer for all people.
Which brings us to this gospel reading. Jesus is currently traveling through pagan gentile territory, and a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus to have her daughter healed by Jesus. Now, plenty of times people have approached Jesus for healing, and he has generally obliged to their request. But here, both the disciples and Jesus are dismissive.
For this gentile woman, she knew she could turn to Jesus, because she recognizes who Jesus is, what he can do. Her faith was strong. Yet here we see that Jesus first ignored her, and then told her off for not being a part of his people, even referring to her as a dog. But she persisted, saying that although she was from a different people, she too acknowledge Jesus’ power and her need for him. Thus, Jesus rewards her faith. Now why Jesus acted this way is up to debate. To test the faith of the woman, to teach a lesson to his disciples?
In either case, it shows that God’s love and mercy is open to all people who wish to have it. And indeed this is actual one of a number of examples where Jesus finds greater faith among pagans than he does among his own people. But it didn’t happen automatically. This woman had to be persistent. Despite being ignored and insulted and experiencing pushback, her faith was such that she continued to ask, continued to believe, and that faith was rewarded.
For us, we must have this same faith and resolve. The faith to acknowledge Jesus Christ and our own sinfulness, and the resolve to seek his mercy, so that we may inherit eternal life. Jesus’ mission is to save sinners and grant them mercy and forgiveness. And as Paul reminds us, since all people have sinned, all are able to receive that mercy.
I tell you, we only accept sinners into our church. Anyone who says that they haven’t done anything wrong, that they are free of guilt, isn’t really going to fit in here. But we acknowledge our sinfulness so that we might becomes saints through God’s generous grace. We continually offer to God our worship, our praise, our prayers of petition, or prayers of thanksgiving, so that we may continually be reformed and healed of our weaknesses, free from the demons that plague us, and filled with the eternal life and love of God in our lives.
But what prevents us from doing this? What might prevent us from acknowledging our sinfulness, acknowledging our need for mercy and healing, and responding to God with persistent prayers?
Perhaps we hate the guilt or shame of admitting our sinfulness. And I don’t mean in a general sense, I mean those specific things that may be uncomfortable to acknowledge, even to ourselves. But the wonderful thing about Jesus is that he takes such things away, removes our guilt by extending her gracious mercy. Perhaps there is doubt about God answering our prayers, expecting something too quickly, or fear about not getting the answer we want. But God will always answer our prayers, our genuine good prayers, in a way that will help us grow closer to him and become more aware of our need for him, and his presence.
Perhaps it is the pressure of everyday life or ridicule from others, so we don’t give the time and effort that we ought. But God promises life eternal, joy eternal, glory eternal. We have just celebrated the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary, who was assumed body and soul into heaven and experiences the fullness of God’s glory. It is a reminder of the glories and rewards that are given to those who remain united with Jesus Christ, and we should always keep such things in mind.
In all things, let nothing stop you from approaching Christ, who gives to you healing and mercy, divine life and goodness. Be confident and unafraid, persistent and hopeful, to acknowledge the love and power of God, your need for his mercy, and the desire to be loved and restored for life eternal.