20A Isaiah 56:1, 6-7. Their captors, having themselves been defeated, can no longer hold the Israelites captive. A remnant of the Israelites returns to restore Zion. However, not only are the Israelites invited to build Zion. In Isaiah56:3a, b, we read, “Let not the foreigner say, when he would join himself to the Lord, “The Lord will surely exclude me from his people.” As long as Gentiles become good Jews, abiding faithfully in the Law, they will make themselves acceptable to the Lord. “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel: Others will I gather to him besides those already gathered.” (Isaiah 56:7c-8)
Matthew 15:21-28. When sending out the twelve Apostles to bring people to believe in him, Jesus instructs them saying, “Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Mt. 10:5b, 6) In Mt. 18:17, Jesus says, “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” To be treated as a Gentile means to be treated as one who is not chosen to be one of his own people, which is to say that what belongs to God’s people belongs to them and only to them and not to the people who have not been chosen. This is all to give a background as to why Jesus says to the Canaanite woman in our Gospel reading for this Sunday, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” In summary, in the initial stages of his ministry, Jesus sees his mission as to only the Jews loyal to Jerusalem.
In Exodus 5:1b, Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh and say, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Let my people go.” Further on in Exodus 5:3, Moses and Aaron reply to Pharaoh’s negative answer, saying, “The God of the Hebrews has sent us word.” The Old Testament indicates clearly that God had chosen his own people from among many peoples here on earth and not chosen all peoples. He refers to himself as the God of Israel or of the Hebrews and not as the God all peoples. That was to come much later but not at the time of the exodus. This sense of being separate from the other peoples of the earth and chosen apart from other peoples by God was taught to Jesus all through his growing up as a young Jew. In his humanness that was what he learned and became a part of his ministry. In Lk. 2:52, we read, “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” Jesus was truly God and truly man. His divinity had to hold itself back to allow his humanity to be truly human in the way all human beings are. Otherwise, his divinity, being as utterly awesome as it is, would have obliterated his humanity. Later, taught by his heavenly Father, his idea of his ministry would expand. His Father teaches the man Jesus through the faith of the Canaanite woman in this Sunday’s Gospel reading and the faith of the centurion (Mt. 8:5-13) that not only does ministry call forth faith but also faith (the rich soil), or the preparation God has given to person to believe, calls forth ministry. Wherever one finds the willingness to believe, one ought to minister.
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32. In Paul’s ministry he finds that the majority of the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah but many Gentiles accept him as the Messiah. Paul expresses the hope that the Jews, seeing that the Gentiles have accepted Jesus, will make them jealous of the Gentiles and, by the merciful grace of God, lead them to be obedient to the call of God to accept Jesus as their Messiah too.