20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Jesus moved on to the region of Tyre and Sidon. This might have seemed surprising to the Jews. Tyre and Sidon was considered pagan territory and thus unclean by the Jews. It is there that Jesus encountered a Canaanite woman.
At first Jesus “did not say a word” when the woman first called out to him. While it might seem surprising to us that Jesus ignored her, the Jews would have expected this. No good Jew would talk to a Canaanite or a woman who was alone.
She persisted in calling out to him so his disciples asked him to “send her away.” Jesus replied, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The Jews were a chosen people. They saw themselves as an exclusive people. As they saw it, salvation was meant only for them. Jesus’ reply would seem to affirm this.
However, the woman remained persistent. She “did Jesus homage,” called him Lord, and asked for help. Jesus’ response would seem to refer to her as a dog, a very derogatory term.
Still she persisted. Now Jesus responds, “O woman, great is your faith! . . . And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”
The Jews were indeed a chosen people. However, salvation was not meant just for the Jews but for all who believe in the one true God. The woman showed a great faith and Jesus did a miracle. Jesus offered the gospel first to the Jews as a chosen people but once they refuse, the risen Jesus sent out the disciples out to baptize all nations.
Up to now, I have referred to “Jews” as a collective group who all believed exactly what I said about being a chosen and exclusive people. However, probably not all the Jews thought that way.
You see, the idea that salvation was not just for the Jews but for all was not a new idea from Jesus. Yes, it took on new life with Jesus but it was not a new idea.
Just look at what we hear from Isaiah today. He refers to “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord. . . all who keep the Sabbath free.” He ended with “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Likewise our psalm refers to “all” several times.
Salvation is clearly meant for all people. We think we should all get this today but we don’t. We still have white nationalists protesting. People are still being treated differently based on race, ethnicity, faith, and disabilities.
Jesus offers salvation to every single person. Every human being is a child of God. We see in our church here people are Hispanic, largely from Puerto Rico and Honduras but other Latin American countries as well. We have Black (colored/Afro-American) people. We have people from the Philippines.
The last parish I was in was Ithaca, an even more diverse congregation. The parish literally had people as members had been born on six of the seven continents. I would say it was only six because I don’t think anyone has ever been born in Antarctica.
Salvation is offered to all people. That doesn’t mean everyone gets into Heaven. To get into Heaven, each person must accept the truth of our faith. To help them do so, we need to
- Show them love. This means we must treat all with dignity and respect.
- Offer them the truth. This means telling them what we know about our faith and how Jesus calls us to live. We may not know everything our faith teaches but we can tell them what we do know, that Jesus loves them.
- When we see people treated badly, we can speak against what is going on. Silence is often interrupted as agreement. When we see racist rallies, are we willing to say we disagree?
Salvation is offered to all. May we have the courage to live what we believe.