“The Family of God: With the Faith for Works of Healing”
August 20, 2017: The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 56: 1 – 8/Psalm 67/Romans 11: 25 – 32/Matthew 15: 21 - 28
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
There is this Gentile woman in the gospel who had a daughter who was cruelly demon-possessed. She went to Jesus for help. During the culture of that time, the Gentiles were looked down by the Jews who thought that they were the chosen people, and the rest of the world was not favored by God, sinful, and that they would go to hell. Today, it is sad that there are those who think this way.
The woman was going to Jesus and was calling Him “Lord.” In the eyes of the Israelites, who was this woman who was calling Jesus “Lord and the Son of David?” The disciples told Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them, and she was not deserving of Jesus’ attention. After all, she belonged to a cursed race. Jesus was not speaking to her, although she was persistent. Finally, when Jesus did speak, He told her something that was not true. He told her, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is not true; not that Jesus was a liar, but He was intending something to do.
Do we say in the Creed,”For the Jews and their salvation, He came down from heaven?” Did Jesus say in John 3:16, “For God so loved the Jews that He gave His only begotten Son for their salvation alone and not for the Gentiles?” We know that what Jesus said to the woman was not true, but we know that there was a purpose for what He said. Jesus is not a liar; He is not a racist. Jesus would have condemned Charlottesville, the white supremacies, who thought that the other races are second class citizens.
In one instance, when James and John wanted to go through Samaria to Jerusalem, with an attitude of “who do they think they are,” they asked Jesus, “Do you want us to call down fire from heaven?” Jesus told them, “ You don’t know what spirit you are of. You are not more superior to them; you are not more special to them. They are also the children of God.”
We say in the CEC that all life is sacred. This supremacist attitude is not just prevalent when it comes to racism and ethic groups. It is an attitude; a spirit. It is the same spirit of a mother that wants to abort her child. She thinks that her life is more important than the baby’s and the baby is a bother to her and doesn’t deserve life. This is the same with racism where the white people think that they are more important than black people. This is the same with the death penalty because some people think that some people deserve to die to have a better world without them. We don’t choose who deserves to live or to die. We don’t choose who deserves to stay in our country or who leaves. Who are we to determine to what sin warrants the death of anyone? We all sin, and no one person are righteous. We all sin and we all fall short of the glory of God.
The supremacist attitude is the same spirit in couples who wants to divorce because a spouse is better than the other, and they don’t deserve being married to each other. I thank heroes, martyrs and pioneers, but just because you urinate in an area doesn’t mean you own the area. Just because you died for your country doesn’t mean you own it. Just because you discovered a country with a certain skin color doesn’t mean you have a monopoly of the rights and privileges of the citizens of that country. The spirit of God is equality; the spirit of God is that all of us are children.
God is not the Father of the Church. God is the Father of all. Jesus died for all. Just because you found the Church doesn’t mean that you own it. It is Jesus’ Church; He purchased it with His own blood. Even the Judge does not kill; God does not kill. God gives life; God sustains life. He does not suppress it. He gives life and He doesn’t take it.
According to St. Paul, death is God’s enemy, not His instrument to carry out His will. The song says, “If He carried the weight of the world upon His shoulder, I know my brother and my sister that He will carry you.” I would say that if He died for you to give you life, why would He kill you?”
In the Wisdom of Solomon in chapter two, verses 23-24 says, “God created humans to live forever. He made them as a perfect representation of His own unique identity. 24 Death entered the universe only through the devil’s envy.” In Luke 9:56, Jesus said, “You don’t know what spirit you are of because the Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” God says that He loves us with an everlasting love.
An Orthodox theologian said that God loved you with an everlasting love, that is both ways – past and future. He said that even when there was a time when man did not exist, God already loved him. God loves us even beyond death, and we are not beyond His reach even after this, and His divine nature is in us.
Nelson Mandela says, “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. If they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” This is the Divine nature in us because we are the children of God. The Spirit that we are of is God’s. Romans 11 concludes with something that is very true. Verse 1 says, “God has not rejected His people.” Jesus said, “If anyone comes to Me, Iwill in no way cast out.” Verse 11, “They did not stumble so as to fall.” There is hope for man. Verse 12 says, “If their failure be riches, how much more their fulfillment?” Verse 15 says, “If their rejection means reconciliation of world, what would their acceptance be, but life from the dead?” It is the very heart of God, the very will of God to give life and to propagate life. Verse 25 says, “I want you not to be unaware, brothers, but there is only a partial hardening for the meantime, for the Israelites until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Then, verse 26 says, “ All of Israel will be saved.” Verse 27-28 goes, “This is My covenant with them (salvation of all), they are beloved and that is God’s choice to love them.” Our salvation is by grace, and we did not earn it. It is God’s choice; it is His love. In verse 32, it concludes, “ For God shut up all in disobedience so He may show mercy to all.” We all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We all need the mercy and the forgiveness of God for Christ died for all.
There is a certain belief in the Christian circles called Universalism, which is a belief that all will eventually be saved and restored. This is what the Bible says – the restoration of all things. There are those who call themselves hopeless romantics, and I am what I would call a “hopeful Universalist.” I am not teaching this as doctrine, but I am holding on to this as hope. This is the heart of God. He is not willing that any should perish, but all be saved and restored and to come to repentance. It is a a hope and I am passionate about this hope.
Scriptures says, “The first will be last; the last will be the first.” What does this mean? I may not understand fully what it means, but something came to me about this. If the first will be last, and the last will be first, then it means that everyone will make it. Others will go ahead of others, but this is the hope that we have. Don’t ever see anyone as hopeless or good or nothing. Jesus says, “If anyone calls his brother as good for nothing, they will be answerable to God.” Break down the dividing wall.
I am not just talking about races, religious beliefs and divisions. I am talking about our general attitude towards different people. We need to admit that there are people whom we don’t like, and sometimes we think they should not exist. Only one death was necessary to restore all things – Jesus’ death – and this is a perfect sacrifice.
There is a series called Game of Thrones, and there were seven soldiers who offended each other because they had so many differences. Then, the leader said that they are not enemies of each other because they had a common enemy to fight, which was death. The leader further said that they were all on the same side, all breathing, and all for life. This is not just the physical life, breathing your last, but also the symptoms of death. Sin, poverty, sickness hatred, indifference and self-centeredness are all symptoms of death. Death happens because of all these mentioned pile up. Adam was told by God, “The day you eat the fruit is the day you die.” Adam did not die, but his sins piled up. One day, he did die. Sooner or later, we will die, but we have not yet been perfected. God gives life, and that is the spirit we are of.
In the gospel, Jesus was not putting her down, but playing the racy role to stimulate her faith, so that He would be able to grant her request. Her faith was working through love. St. Paul says in Galatians 5:6 of a faith working through love. The healing she was asking for Jesus was not for herself, but for her daughter, and here her faith was working through love.
The sad thing is that men are blessed like children, and they get the bread not the crumbs. We are blessed; we are children. We get the bread, and yet we ask for more. The Gentile woman is rebuking us and her story flies in our face because she said, “Lord, I know how powerful Your blessing is. I only need crumbs. Call me a dog, unchosen, but I know that just the crumbs are enough for me because you are a God who is more than enough. I will go home, and my daughter will be healed.” A Gentile also said, “You don’t even need to come to my house, just say the word and my servant will be healed.”
As Christians, we have been fat spiritually, we have been blessed beyond measure, and yet we ask for more because we don’t know what we have. We need to count our blessings and run with them, produce with them, obey God with them, and demonstrate our faith with them. Only a little is enough. We don’t have just a little; we have more than enough.
The Gentile woman is a confrontation to our faith. Jesus’ objective was to display her faith, even to His disciples and to all of Israel. He said, “I have not seen any faith like this, or as great as this, even in Israel, in the people who call themselves the chosen people of God.
Maybe, it is time that we do not ask for more. Realize how blessed we are! This is the truth! Don’t say, “I don’t have enough.” Don’t belittle yourself because we have more than enough. We have what it takes to display God’s kingdom, to further it, and to let our light shine. We have enough to run, to live with, and to be conformed to His image with because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.