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The readings this Sunday – the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – show how, beginning in the Old Testament and then even more in the New Testament, God wanted to make clear that he was God of all, not just the God of one people.
This can seem to be of historical importance only. In the past God had a chosen people, the Jewish people, but that is done and he has expanded his covenant to others.
But the readings are very relevant even now to those of us who are Gentiles. They are a reminder that we are the last minute invites to the party.
The Chosen People were the VIP guests, and they were never “unchosen.” As St. Paul says of them in the second reading “the gifts of God are irrevocable.” As the Catechism puts it:
“The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews ‘belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ’, ‘for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.’ And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah” (Nos. 839-840).
In the Gospel when the Canaanite woman comes looking for a miracle, the apostles urge Jesus to reject her since she is not Jewish. He seems to agree with them, at first. When Jesus tests the Canaanite woman’s faith by saying, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs,” we should identify with the dogs in his analogy, not the children.
Yes, our “second class” status has been overcome by baptism, and yes, we are now properly called “children of God.” “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” says the first reading. “Let all the nations praise you,” says the Psalm. But we still are “Plan B” people. We are Gentiles. And we can learn from the Canaanite woman’s gratitude — and humility.
The Canaanite woman says what we should say: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Jesus answers: “Oh woman, great is your faith!”
The Gospel is not supposed to remind us that there once were people who should have felt uniquely honored to approach Christ. It is supposed to remind us that we should ourselves feel uniquely honored to approach Christ.
Remember today’s Gospel today at communion time. When we say, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof,” repeating the words of another Gentile in the Gospels, we ought to mean it. And when we add, “but only say the word and my soul shall be healed,” we should say it with gratitude.
We should feel unbelievably blessed to be able to approach Jesus — truly present in his body, blood soul and divinity in communion — at all.