ORDINARY 20 (A)
O woman, great is your faith! – Matt. 15: 28
It feels wonderful to be chosen. A newly engaged woman flashes a diamond ring by way of saying, “He chose me!” Dancers gather around a casting director’s office at a posted list to see who was selected for the ballet company’s upcoming season. When one of them sees their name, the euphoria is explosive & unrestrained. “I’m in! I made it!”
But what about those not chosen? What is it like not to be proposed to, or not find your name on the list? It can be a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Why did God chose a scruffy bunch of slaves in Egypt to be His chosen people? The only thing that is clear is that it was not because of their merit or resumé. In the words of William Ewer’s famous couplet: “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” So why did God chose them? The problem with being chosen lies at the core of today’s Gospel reading.
Historically, many Israelites thought being chosen as meant exclusive privileges that Gentiles were denied. Through the prophets, God had to remind them again & again, this is not what it meant. Being chosen, means service, not privilege. How can God be faithful to His Covenant, & yet reach out to the whole world at the same time?
It seems that every time our Lord came into contact with a Gentile, they became models of faith by their response to Him. Jesus honored the Covenant by offering salvation to the chosen people first. But here was a woman who could not wait for her turn to respond to the Gospel. When Jesus hesitated to meet her request for help, her faith & persistence won his heart. He hears the confession of faith & trust from her that he longed to hear from His own people. In response, he simply fast-forwarded to her the offer of grace to the Gentiles that was in God’s heart all along.
So here is the mystery revealed in today’s Gospel: when God choses a people, it does not mean that others are not chosen. To love Israel does not mean to withdraw love from others. To choose some & leave others out is human logic, not from the heart of God. General Eisenhower chose Normandy to begin the invasion of Europe, but he had no plans to stop there. It was a beachhead for the liberation of the whole of Europe.
Similarly, the incarnation of God’s Son in Israel was God’s beachhead for the salvation of the whole world. There is no such thing as being left out of God’s salvific work. Herein lies the challenge to our own evangelizing, or perhaps more accurately, our lack of it. ALL of us are God’s chosen ones – every least, last & lost one of us.
Where ever we find the response of faith & trust exhibited by this Canaanite woman, we are called upon to share with that person the grace we have experienced in our lives. Of course, this means we have to be aware of the many graces God has heaped upon us, & have a heart of gratitude. We are anxious to share good news with others. But that becomes problematic if we have no sense of gratitude for the pearl of great price that God has given to us. If we take it for granted, we are not going to be in any hurry to share anything with someone else. In which case, both we & the other person will be the poorer for it. AMEN!