Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
The prophet Isaiah foresees the day when Gentile foreigners will join themselves to the Lord, when they will love the name of the Lord and keep the Sabbath. On that day, they will observe the covenant and worship on God’s holy mountain and rejoice in God’s house of prayer.
This universal dimension was part of the promise made to Abraham: “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12:3); “by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves” (Genesis 22:18). The kingdom of David had the mission of fulfilling this covenant promise to Abraham and bringing blessing to all the nations of the world. “The liturgy of the Temple is the means by which the children of Abraham are to bestow God’s blessings upon the families of the world” (S. Hahn, “Liturgy and Empire”, Letter and Spirit 5 (2009), 42).
Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). However, history shows that they failed in this, falling into idolatry and sin. The nations of Israel and Judah were exiled and sent out and into the nations by God. When Jesus, the Son of David, comes, his mission is first to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel. At the same time, he will gather all men and all nations to himself when he is lifted up.
In this way we understand Jesus response to the Canaanite woman, who addresses him as “Son of David”. Through his initial silence and challenging responses, Jesus is able to bring her to profound faith in him. The woman speaks to Jesus three times, each time calling him “Lord”. First, she asks for pity and mercy for herself and for her daughter. Second, she asks for help. Third, she tells Jesus that she is content even with what is left-over from his table.
Last week, Jesus called his disciples “men of little faith”, this week he calls the Gentile woman a “woman of great faith”. Because of her faith and perseverance, she receives mercy and help and her daughter is healed.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the mission to the Gentiles starts on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had given his disciples the great commission on the day of his Ascension: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). But they were also told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to preach the Gospel and work mighty signs among the people.
Paul is the vessel chosen by God to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. He is rightly the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul writes that all have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews disobeyed the Law given through Moses; the Gentiles disobeyed the natural law given to all men. Those who have disobeyed, can still receive God’s mercy. Just as the Canaanite woman and her daughter received mercy, healing and salvation, through persistent prayer and Jesus’ power, we too receive mercy, healing and salvation from Jesus Christ. We only have to ask for it.
Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at [email protected].