Is 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21- 28
One day, it seems, a certain curious person I heaven asked St. Peter “How many Hindus are heaven?” St Peter replied: “No Hindus.” Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied St Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh then, there are only Christians in heaven?” “No, there are no Christians in heaven either,” replied St Peter. “How many Catholics?” “No Catholics either.” Then St Peter said, “Heaven is not meant for any particular group of people. Here, there is no distinction between Hindus, Muslims or Christians for all are welcome in heaven.”
In Christ all divisions and differences between people are irrelevant. You might remember Paul’s passage in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. All are one in Christ.” God’s mercy is extended to all who call upon him in faith. The woman in today’s gospel belonged to the old Canaanite stock of the Syro-Phoenician race. The Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews and were regarded as pagans and idolaters – ritually unclean. But this woman showed a tremendous amount of faith. In fact, we ourselves feel envious of the faith which the gentile Canaanite woman put in Christ and are compelled to ask ourselves whether our Christian faith is as good as hers.
Hers was a personal faith: when the woman cried out, all the disciples went ot Christ and said, “Send her away” (Mt 15:23). To that Jesus said, “I was sent only ot the lost sheep of Israel” (v.24). But when the woman herself, still crying out, came to him and said: “That is true, sir, and yet the dogs eat what falls from their master’s table” (v.27); then he grated her request, saying, “Let it be as you desire” (v.28). Yes; when the disciples entreated him, Jesus put them off, but when the woman herself personally cried out begging for this favor, he granted it. Is our faith personal?
Hers was a persistent faith: it seems that nothing could discourage her. She first met a wall of silence, but kept asking; then she met a rebuff, but she threw herself at the feet of Jesus and she was rewarded. How persevering is our faith? Shortly after World War II, workmen were clearing out the debris from a bombed-out house in Cologne, Germany. On one of the cellar walls of the house they found a moving inscription. It had apparently been written there by a fugitive Jew who had used the basement to hide from Nazis. The inscription read: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining. I believe in love even when I feel it not. I believe in God even when he silent.”
Hers was cheerful faith. Cheerfulness, as you know, is not the same as merriment; while we make merry, our teeth are smiling, but while we are cheerful, our hearts are smiling. The Canaanite woman had an irrepressible cheerfulness. We are not aware of all other difficulties she might have had in the course of her life. But her ready response to Jesus’ apparent insult when he called her a ‘dog’ (Mt15:26), suggests that she won’t let the rough side of life get her down. She turned the insult round with a flash of humor and got what she prayed for. Are we always looking on the gloomy side of life? If our faith is strong, we would always be cheerful within. The moment I am unbelieving, I am unhappy. God loves a cheerful giver; a ready wit not only enables me to bear the burdens of life but it also gladdens the heart of God.
What can we do to strengthen our faith? Faith is like a muscle; the more we exercise our muscle, the stronger it grows. Our faith too responds to exercise. Therefore we can study the Gospels and talk about them. We can be more attentive during the Eucharist. We can take up the habit of daily prayer. We can share our time, talents, treasure by way of service.