SFX Bulletin, 17 August 2014: Every human being is made by God. God unceasingly calls everyone – including non-Christians - into relationship with Him. This unbreakable bond between the divine and the human opens the Catechism, “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God…God never ceases to draw man to himself. Only in God will he find the truth and happiness he never stops searching for” (CCC27).
This “truth and happiness” experienced in finding God is what has attracted the saints to desire God’s constant presence. It is key also to human dignity, “The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called into communion with God. This invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being. For if man exists, it is because God has created him through love, and through love continues to hold him in existence. He cannot live fully according to truth unless he freely acknowledges that love and entrusts himself to his creator” (Gaudium et Spes 19).
We are prompted today to reflect deeper on whether we have found this “truth and happiness” in knowing God’s love and have come to Holy Mass to be refreshed at His table of the Word and the Eucharist. Or is Mass an obligation imposed on us by a God we still do not trust? What can we do if we assess our faith to be less than ideal?
Interestingly, this week’s readings present to us “foreigners”, “pagans” and a Canaanite woman as role models of faith. They have not been privileged to be born into a religious culture where the right knowledge of God can be learnt and practised. Yet, they were able to respond to “the desire for God written in every human heart” and even receive God’s approval. Through the prophet Isaiah, God praised the “foreigners” because they had “attached themselves to the Lord to serve him and to love his name and be his servants”. These “foreigners” rather than many of God’s chosen people were the ones “who observe the Sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to (God’s) covenant” (v.6). They were praised for responding well to God’s promptings through their God-given natural reason and conscience to choose the right thing to do and thus act in ways pleasing to God. In God’s own time and way, they will be brought to the “holy mountain” (v.7) who is Christ because no one can go to God the Father except through Christ (cf. Jn.14:6).
The Canaanite woman in today’s gospel is one such “foreigner” led to Christ. Based on the religious norms of the day, she accepted the divine plan that the Jewish people were God’s chosen and that Jesus’ preaching and miracles were for their benefit. Yet, she had such strong faith in God’s compassion that she knew her plea for just “scraps” of the divine power to help her demon-possessed daughter would not be refused. Her steadfast faith won Jesus’ admiration and effected her daughter’s healing, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted” (v.28).
Like her, we are the “foreigners”, “pagans”, “Canaanite” and “dogs” by traditional Jewish definition. However, we have now become the new chosen people through our baptism into Christ. St. Paul says we have received this privilege to make God’s first chosen people “envious” of us. We have been blessed so as to radiate “truth and happiness” in knowing God – Godliness.
The Canaanite woman’s story also tells us that God blesses all people. When we see non-Christians shine with a Christ-like holiness, perhaps God is trying to make us “envious” of their self-sacrificing radiance, prompting us to examine if we are participating in and living out the Church’s sacraments – especially the Eucharist. They are the gifts and the means to holiness and Godliness. Let us pray that we will “cling” to this “New Covenant” (cf. Isa.56:6) – to Jesus and his Church. For it is with the Church that we can most perfectly learn Christ’s holiness and be nourished by him to become a Godly people.