This Sunday is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary time. The readings for this week remind us that salvation is for all. God intends that all, His sons and daughters, be saved and attain the fullness of life, and to be with Him for all eternity. Although God set the Hebrew people apart as His chosen race, He included all nations in His plan for salvation, and blessed all families of the earth in Abraham. The readings also remind us of the importance of prayer, the need for persistence in prayer, not to give up or lose heart when things do not go the way we want.
By declaring through the prophet Isaiah, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction between covenanted and non-covenanted people. The prophet is talking to the people who had just returned from exile, discouraged and disappointed. During exile, some of them even lost their identities by marrying Gentiles. By saying that “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” the prophet consoles those Jews who had lost their religious identities. He also reminded them that God was interested in all people. God wanted all to enjoy salvation, and the only requirement is doing what is just and right and living in right relationship with Him. In short, the prophet reminds us that everyone has a part to play in God’s plan of salvation—even those who don’t belong to the covenant.
In the second reading, Paul explains that, although the Jews were the chosen people, most of them had denied the promised Messiah, and, consequently, God turned to the Gentiles who received mercy through their Faith in Jesus. Paul, knowing the universal nature of salvation, took the Gospel to the Gentiles. By the statement, “Their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,” Paul meant that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus allowed the world—the pagans and the Gentiles—to be reconciled to God. Paul’s message is a reminder to everyone that salvation is for all, but one cannot take God’s goodness for granted like the Jews did. They not only missed the opportunity of accepting Jesus as their personal Savior but also God’s invitation of salvation.
In the Gospel, we have the story of the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus to heal her ailing daughter. The Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews and were regarded as pagans and idolaters and, hence, as ritually unclean. One might question and get confused with the manner in which Jesus treated the woman. Why did He do and say what He did? For several reasons: by telling her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he tries to awaken true Faith in the woman. He teaches the disciples and us how strong and persistent the woman was in her request. The Gospel tells that she kneels before him and begs, “Lord, help me.” She was persistent, and because of her persistence, Jesus not only grants her request but makes her a model of faith: “Woman, great is your Faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before He granted her request and finally, the fourth time, her persistence was rewarded, and her plea was answered. It is a reminder to us that, in order to experience God’s mercy and goodness, one must open up our hearts to Jesus just like the Canaanite woman did.
Therefore, do not be hesitant to pray to God, asking Him for what we want. Christ Himself has told us, “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the “Faith” we need to be able to receive all that Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests. But, we must remember that we may not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather what God knows we need, what He wants for us, and what is really best for us. However, we must not give up or stop praying if we do not get what we ask; keep trusting in God.
God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on Him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are and what their religious affiliations are. In other words, God’s care extends beyond the boundaries, to the hearts of all, and God’s House should become a House of prayer for all peoples. As followers of Jesus, we are called to make use of the God-given opportunities and to not take for granted His goodness and His call for repentance.
On another note I want to take this opportunity to invite you all to our summer series talk this Sunday, August 20th, at 9:15 am in the Hall. Tim Staples, a renowned speaker from Catholic Answers, will speak on the topic, “Friends in High Places.” Do not miss this opportunity and for more information please see this week’s bulletin.