THE ASCENT OF FAITH AND THE UNIVERSAL MERCY OF GOD
Isaiah 56:1.6-7; Psalm 67:2-3.5.6 and 8 (R.4); Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Matt 15:21-28
In the readings of last Sunday, we saw audacity of faith that Peter displayed by daring to accept Jesus invitation to come to him walking on the sea. However, the insufficiency of that faith showed up when he was faced with the troubled sea and took his gaze off Jesus.
In the gospel reading of today, the Canaanite woman is set before us as example of undoubting faith which does not take a ‘NO’ for an answer. The faith of this woman was so strong that she saw Jesus and acknowledged him as the Son of David even though she was from a pagan territory. She saw in Jesus the universal savior of the world who does not despise anyone who proclaims faith in him. Jesus stretched her faith by his initial refusal, taking it to the level of total trust in the mercy of God.
She was very patient, unlike what many of us would have done when faced with such a challenge of faith. When Jesus could see through her tears, the resolute and unconditional self-abandonment to his power to heal and save, He said to her, O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire.
Contrast that from the response Jesus also gave Peter last Sunday, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? We need to have that enduring character to insist on what the Lord will do in our favour in his given time for surely, he will not let us down.
By the way, Jesus initial response that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel is expected of the Jews, who see themselves as the chosen people of God. Yet, after that, he went ahead to heal the womans daughter, an indication that he is a universal savior and anyone of any nationality who expresses faith in him is granted whatever he asks of him.
In the First Reading, Isaiah already prophesied that God will be King over all the earth. So, anyone, including a foreigner, who keeps the commands of God will be admitted into the temple worship. That points to the universal mercy of God. Just as exile forced the Jews to take that mercy to the foreign land, Jewish rejection of Jesus enabled the invitation to be extended to the Gentiles. St. Paul, in the Second Reading, invites the Jews to come to term with that mercy of God which embraces all peoples. This mercy of God is an unmerited gift, hence no room for distinction between peoples anymore.
This is the symbol that the church portrays. The word Catholic means universal and she welcomes everybody who professes faith in Christ. It is therefore not for us to ostracize anybody or give them certain human labels that exclude them from worshipping God in truth and spirit. We are beneficiaries of the universal mercy of God through our faith declaration in the merciful Jesus; we are to carry this mercy to the world as followers of Christ.