Saved by the King of the Jews
The Gospel for this Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time relates a clarifying message from Jesus, presented in a quite subtle way for His Disciples to learn from. The Jewish people were deemed to be God’s Chosen People and this resulted in the very polarized Jew and Gentile world in which Jesus grew up. For a Jew to associate with a Gentile was forbidden. Jews believed that anyone who was not Jewish was a lesser human being and could not be saved. Therefore, as a Jew you were not to do business with them and you were to never talk to them or pass through their towns. We see examples of this mindset in Scriptural accounts of the “Good Samaritan” and the “Samaritan Woman at the well.” Jesus began breaking down this prejudicial segregation from the very beginning of His public life. In fact, His frequent association with Gentiles was one of the many strikes His persecutor’s tallied against Him as they sought His crucifixion. But, this was meant to be…it was the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah, made nearly eight centuries before Jesus was born.
Isaiah prophesied, as we heard in today’s first reading, that the coming of the Messiah would bring about the hope of salvation for all…even for “foreigners who join themselves to the Lord.” Even though the Temple at Jerusalem was a house of worship only for the Jewish people, the Church to be founded upon Peter, we hear that it “…shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” This was especially applicable to the Gentiles, as well as all those who did not previously know the One God, or His Son, Jesus Christ. As regards that subtle message to teach His Disciples, Jesus begins His response to the Canaanite (Gentile) woman who had appealed to him to heal her daughter from demonic possession. Jesus at first ignores her, then seemingly rebukes her, momentarily appearing to side with the segregationist mindset of the Pharisees.
Jesus is actually testing her faith, inferring that Gentiles are much like dogs, and not worthy of the “catechetical food.” He has been sent to provide to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Christ’s test brings positive results. The woman conveys that she believes, that even she…a non-Jew, a Canaanite woman, a Gentile…is indeed intended to share in the “scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She believes that she too, can be saved by the King of the Jews. This Gospel account highlights the fact that the people of Christ’s time spent too much time and effort drawing attention to the differences among people, focusing on the things that divide them. And, sadly, far too many of us today, do the same. We need to imitate Christ, and gaze through the eyes of our faith and remain cognizant that all are called to faith, and all are called to be children of God. Even though we may all be sinners… we can all be saved…as Christ came to explicitly save sinners. Please note the qualifier “can” in that last statement “We can all be saved.” But all are not being saved. Christ’s “food” (his teachings and commandments) need to be digested and become part of us, part of our life.
So, let us learn, from our Lord’s words in today’s Gospel story, to refrain from being “Pharisaic”, opposed, judgmental, and divided from those whose beliefs differ from ours. We are to pray for them and remain open and ready to share our hope, our Faith, and our love with them. For those whose beliefs and actions are radically opposed, as regards mortally sinful behavior…we are to still love them and to pray for their reparation and return to living in accord with God’s laws and precepts. This call to be positive and non-judgmental, however, does not exclude our condemnation of mortal sin and mortally sinful behavior. This applies especially to sensual, lust-ridden sin, that has been eroding our humanity and our Catholic Church for the past several generations. Today this applies to the expanding variety of disordered, outside of sacramental marriage, same-sex relations.
In this Centennial year of Our Lady’s Miraculous apparitions and message at Fatima, we should take heed of what she told us. Hell is real, the three young children were shown its horror. Why? To scare them? No, so that they could testify (after the Miraculous Apparition verified their truth) to us, what they saw and its reality. When they asked Our Lady “What kind of sins offends God the most?”, Our Lady mentioned Sins of the Flesh. When asked, “For what sin do most people end up in Hell?”, her response likewise was, “Sins of the Flesh”. So, my brothers and sisters, it is important that we teach our children, and convey to others, that all sins of the flesh are mortally sinful and evil, and no amount of rhetoric claiming it to be “acceptable behavior in a changing world”, should be listened to. Do not be misled or duped by anyone (clergy included) that the mortally sinful life of a loving same-sex relationship should be accepted as valued and meritorious. The Word of God, Old Testament and New, very clearly condemns those behaviors as abominable. We must pray with all our heart (and also make worthy sacrifices) for these sinners, doing so in accord with the message given 100 years ago by Our Lady at Fatima. Love the sinner, hate the sin and the damage it does to mankind. Mary, refuge of sinners, pray for us.
Yours in Our Holy Redeemer,