August (19) 20, 2017
20th Sun Ord Time
All English masses
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32; Matthew 15: 21-28
Today’s readings proclaim the greatest gift ever bestowed upon the Gentiles (non-Jews, us)! Which is the offer of salvation and the opportunity to be counted among God’s chosen people! The offer of salvation (bluntly, to be saved from Hell) through the Messiah (Jesus Christ) was given first to the nation of Israel. But because He was rejected, the gift of the Messiah was extended to all people! And that is good news for us, NO, that is the greatest news ever…that God loves all people so much that He offers everyone salvation.
In the first reading from Isaiah we heard the Lord speaking saying that even foreigners (Gentiles) were invited to His holy mountain (His Church & salvation)…In the second reading St. Paul tells us he is the apostle to the Gentiles. Apostle meaning “sent”. St. Paul was “sent” to offer the Gospel and the Good News of salvation to all people…And in the Gospel Jesus extends salvation even to a Canaanite woman, a pagan, a foreigner and an enemy of Israel.
This is God’s plan of salvation…to offer the Savior to all the world. This is the greatest gift ever given. But we must not take it for granted! We must know & fully realize the tremendous gift that has been offered to us…the opportunity of salvation through Christ and His Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church…It always makes me laugh inside when someone says, “I was born Catholic.” NOBODY IS BORN CATHOLIC! They might be born into a Catholic family but they are not born Catholic! A person becomes a Catholic Christian through Baptism and through faith. We must know and realize the great gift we have been given through being offered salvation in and though Christ and His Church. But we must make it our own. It’s not good enough to consider ourselves a Catholic Christian because our family is Catholic or because our spouse is Catholic. We must all make it personal, accept it as our own, place our own, personal faith in Jesus Christ and in His Church.
This is a universal call, a universal offer to all people. Even offered to people who we might think do not deserve it. This stretches our faith as it did for the people of Israel. Isaiah lived about 700 – 800 years before Christ walked the earth. It was unheard of for foreigners or pagans at that time to be considered to be among the chosen people. Yet the Lord God prophesied through Isaiah saying that yes even the Gentiles were called to salvation. This was shocking to the Jews. It may be shocking to us today that some certain people are offered salvation. Can you think of any that might shock you? Or that you think should not be offered salvation? They might be near or they might be far. Maybe criminals or terrorists (horrendous things or threaten to do horrendous things), or people who are different than us or have a different way of thinking or living, or who have come against us. But the scriptures tell us all are offered salvation…and all means all.
But to be among the chosen people of God and on the road to salvation a person must respond to the offer and must live in His covenant. The people of the old covenant were expected to live according to certain standards and follow certain guidelines. The people of the new covenant (all people today) are also expected to live according to certain standards and guidelines. We look to the first reading to see what that means. It is laid out for us in the reading from Isaiah, “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to Him, loving the name of the Lord and becoming His servants, all who hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain.” So first, it is saying foreigners (Gentiles, non-Jews) who join themselves to the Lord, who become one with Him, who receive Him into their hearts and lives, those who walk with Him and who serve Him will be brought to salvation. If we wish to be among the chosen people of God and on the road to salvation these are the standards we are expected to live by. This is the covenant we must uphold…simply put love God and love neighbor. It is the cross: the vertical beam up towards God, the horizontal beam out towards neighbor. Love God by the way we live our lives as stewards of the Gospel. And because we are one with Jesus we serve as He served offering our life as sacrifice.
In Isaiah it also said, “Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar.” The people of the old covenant would bring their tithe offerings to the priest at the altar in the Temple as a thanksgiving. And now us as the people of the new covenant bring our gifts to the altar as a thanksgiving for being counted among the chosen people of God and for all that He blesses us with. Here at Resurrection we do not sit back to have our offerings taken from us as we sit in the pew…no, we freely bring our gifts up to the altar as we make a gesture of giving rather than being taken from. We do this by sharing a portion of our resources we have been blessed with but we are also called to offer a portion of our time and talent in service. We offer back our very lives in sacrifice and in service. In this we show concern for the other. In the Gospel the disciples wanted to send the Canaanite woman away considering her a bother. They missed the needs of the other. We must be aware and be concerned with the needs of the other not only of our own needs…These are the standards and the terms of the covenant we are called to live if are to be counted among the chosen people of God on the way to salvation.
As individuals we are called to live in the new covenant of the Gospel but as community, as Church we are also called to live in the new covenant and to spread the universal invitation to all peoples. It is through us, God’s chosen people that the Lord invites all to salvation. It is by and through us, the Church, that all people are invited and welcome on the road to salvation…Here at Resurrection we have a special and unique opportunity with the building of our new church, our new worship space. Our new church is expected to be finished early next year or by the spring. It is going to be beautiful on the outside and the inside. The bell tower is going to be lit up high in the air for all to see. When they do see it they will come to check it out, no doubt. This is our unique opportunity to be welcoming and inviting to all who come. This is our opportunity as Church to assist the Lord in His invitation to all people and the Lord’s words in Isaiah to be fulfilled, “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” It takes the whole community to come together in an awesome project like this for it to be a success. A symbol of that is the beam that many of us signed. Names were put on it after every mass (English & Spanish). And that beam is placed inside the church as a symbol of unity and joining together as one community to provide for generations to come…If you are actively contributing to this awesome project, God’s project, then you are actively contributing to the Kingdom of God. That means that you will be contributing to the salvation of souls. That means that you will take part in every mass that is celebrated, in every Baptism, 1st Communion, Confirmation, Quinceanera, wedding and funeral. You will be taking part in God’s plan of salvation! If you are not yet, the Lord God is still giving you the chance to take part in it. Do not let this opportunity pass by. It is an opportunity not given to most, but it has been given to us here at Resurrection.
In closing, God’s plan of salvation, the offer of the Savior to all the world is the greatest gift ever given. But we must not take it for granted! We must know the tremendous gift that has been offered to us…the opportunity of salvation through Christ and His Church, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Jew and Gentile need to be saved from their sins and from eternal damnation. All are offered but it takes a response. Either we reject it like many do or just take it for granted, or we gratefully accept it and we live in the covenant and the standards it requires with the help of God.
We are so blessed to be Catholic and to be counted among God’s chosen people! May we show it by the way we live our lives for His glory!