A Universal Message
(20th Ordinary Sunday: Isaiah 56:1-7; Romans 11:13-32; Matthew 15:21-28)
For reasons that are not immediately clear, Jesus’ mission did not include the gentiles, though he did respond to the prayer of a Roman Centurion (Matthew 8:5-13) and, in today’s Gospel, a Canaanite woman.
Earlier, when he sent the Twelve on their first missionary experience, he instructed them, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Only at the end of Matthew’s Gospel did he give them the command: “Go, make disciples of all nations.”
Over time, and after many persecutions, the Psalmist’s prayer, “May all the peoples praise you,” was heard. In every nation today, there are at least some persons who fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy, “Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.”
Universality (being inclusive) is a challenge, however. There is a tendency in every group toward a certain exclusivity. In today’s Gospel the disciples want Jesus to do whatever it takes to make the Canaanite woman go away, not only, perhaps, because she is a gentile but also because she is a nuisance.
Have you ever found yourself trying to avoid uncomfortable situations, difficult people, unwanted appeals from someone in need, etc., etc.? It can be hard to maintain the inclusive spirit that is inherent in our mission of Reconciliation.
St. Paul had in his day tried to exclude Christians from Judaism. Then, some early Jewish Christians wanted to exclude gentiles. Now Paul longs to bring the salvation of Christ to the Jews as he has to the gentiles.
This vision is echoed in the closing words of Mary’s message at La Salette, “You will make this known to all my people.” Today there are La Salette missions in 27 countries (and we continue to discover small La Salette shrines in other places), but that leaves us with well over 150 countries where La Salette is unknown. Compared to the spread of the Gospel, we have a long way to go!
The message has many elements, attracting different persons in different ways. This is true also of us messengers, individually unique but, together, universal.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.