Reading I: Isaiah 56:1,6-7
Reading II: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
GOSPEL: Matthew 15:21-28

The Choice is Yours

Have you ever had one of those “salvation” debates? You know – the kind where you pit two different groups against each other? For example, who will be saved – the “good” person who doesn’t go to church or the “bad” one who does? The baptized soul or the un-baptized one? The Christian or the Muslim or the Jew or everyone else?

At the time, it may seem like a reasonable debate to have. Shouldn’t we be concerned about the workings of something like salvation, so that we can be sure we’re on the right path? On the other hand, is it reasonable to pit people against each other in the discussion of salvation?

I speak about this from my own experience. You see, I have been involved in many such discussions. Well… actually, it is more accurate to say that I have initiated many such discussions.

On the surface it may seem logical that if there is salvation for one group, then that must mean someone else is missing out. Yet after looking at the readings for this week, I am convinced that that type of discussion is just way off-base. Salvation is not a game. There is no Team A and Team B with a winner-takes-all glorious prize.

In fact, I think it is a very common mistake that we humans make. I know I do it all the time. The mistake is this: We think about salvation and God in our own human terms and concepts. The truth, however, is that God created salvation and heaven on His terms. To even come close to understanding the Lord, we need to throw out many of our human ideas and our personal baggage. For me, this means I need to stop thinking of everything as if it were a football game (though that does sound a bit like heaven to me). I doubt, however, that football is what God had in mind.

Salvation for All

In the first reading, the Lord says “for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples“. For all people – there was no line that said “for groups A through F, not including B or D.”

Although the Lord didn’t discriminate between races, He did say that His house would be acceptable to those who love the Lord. The Lord said to do what is right and just, become a servant, minister, and hold close the covenant.

In the second reading, Paul writes to the Romans to give them the same message. All can have salvation. You must remember that, at the time, many people viewed this Christianity “thing” as something for the Jewish people. Paul is out preaching and saying that it is also for Gentiles. Then he takes it even further, saying that some of the Jews don’t seem to care, for they have disobeyed God.

Paul is sending a simple message: If you desire it, the Gift of God is there for everyone who cares to grab hold.

In the Gospel, Jesus also shows how mercy can be given to anyone who has a great faith in the Lord. A Canaanite woman is following the disciples and Jesus. The disciples are pestered and annoyed with her and they ask Jesus to send her away. (The disciples seem to have a history of this.) At first Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

But the woman doesn’t give up. She pleads for help. She asks that her daughter be freed from a demon. Jesus then compares her to a dog, but she still doesn’t give up saying, “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus is impressed with her faith and grants her plea. Her faith was strong.

Have Faith

At a certain level, the readings this week are quite simple to understand. Salvation is for all people – and the key to gaining salvation is to have faith in Christ and use that faith for the benefit of all. We should express our faith in our daily lives. Love our God and, through our actions, all of God’s creation – especially God’s children. Don’t take for granted what we have been given.

It seems obvious that many Israelites did take it for granted. They were too caught up in the laws, rules, and customs of their day. The lesson to us is that we must avoid getting caught up in the rules and customs of our day. Remember that, in the first reading, the Lord says, “Observe what is right, do what is just.” In the second reading Paul says, “For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.” And in the Gospel, Jesus says, “O woman, great is your faith.”

Justice. Mercy. Faith. These are given to all people, if they choose to accept them. The choice is yours.

Life Applications:

How do you tend to see salvation and who can be saved?
What human baggage in your life could you get rid of in order to grow closer to God?
How can you promote justice, mercy, and faith?

Original article by Rod Hetherton, 2002 – 2020.
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