Lector's Notes

First Reading – Tips

by Gregory Warnusz

Today’s passage first gives a general reassurance about God’s intention to renew the covenant. If you can, make yourself sound hopeful as you proclaim the first sentence. Then pause. The rest of the reading announces the radical change in the covenant, the welcoming of foreigners. In reading it aloud, you should emphasize the words referring to the newcomers, as the prophet would have in announcing this to the people for the first time. So: The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord … them I will bring to my holy mountain … their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable … for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (The place “my holy mountain” means the hill Mount Zion, in the center of Jerusalem, where the temple (“my house”) stood.)

Second Reading – Tips

by Gregory Warnusz

Make sure you know the referent of every pronoun in this passage, and that you contrast them properly with tones of voice. Paul (“I”) is a Jew speaking to pagans (“you”) about the Jews (“my race,” “some of them”) and so on. Every third-person pronoun here refers to the Jews, and every second-person pronoun to the just-converted Gentiles. Let your listeners hear the differences.

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Intro to Readings
by Gregory Warnusz

First Reading

With their exile in Babylon ended, Judeans returned to Jerusalem, expecting to offer sacrifices in the temple on Mount Zion again. Some ethnic boundaries had gotten blurred during the exile, so the prophet has to pronounce on the acceptability of sacrifices by outsiders.

Second Reading

Saint Paul believes that even though mainline Jews have rejected Jesus, God’s faithfulness to ancient promises requires that they eventually convert. He speculates on how that might come about.

Gospel

This gospel preserves a memory that Jesus himself once held a narrow vision of his mission, and found it challenged by an outsider.

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Central Theme for Sunday’s Mass

Commentary, bible study and  Gospel videos

Word-Sunday.com

by Larry Broding

Doctrinal Homily Outlines

by Kevin Aldrich

Pray with filial boldness

Central idea: Salvation for all.

Doctrine: The power of invocation with sincere faith.

Practical application:
Pray with filial boldness.

INTROFIRST READINGPSALMSECOND READINGGOSPELCONNECTIONSQUESTIONSCHURCH FATHERSCATECHISM
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The Universal Call to Salvation

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commentary

"...their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. — Isaiah 56:7

FIRST READING – With their exile in Babylon ended, Judeans returned to Jerusalem, expecting to offer sacrifices in the temple on Mount Zion again. Some ethnic boundaries had gotten blurred during the exile, so the prophet has to pronounce on the acceptability of sacrifices by outsiders.

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commentary

"May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!" — Psalm 67:6

RESPONSORIAL PSALM – This hymn of praise may have been written in thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest. It is chosen today because of its strong universalistic strain, thereby connecting it with the first and third readings.

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commentary

"I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. " — Romans 11:13-14

SECOND READING – Saint Paul believes that even though mainline Jews have rejected Jesus, God’s faithfulness to ancient promises requires that they eventually convert. He speculates on how that might come about.

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commentary

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” — Matthew 15:26

GOSPEL READING – This gospel preserves a memory that Jesus himself once held a narrow vision of his mission, and found it challenged by an outsider.


PHOTO CREDITS:
FIRST READING: Pope Francis - pictured in April 2020 leading a Mass to commemorate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.
PSALM: Catholic worshipers participate in Sunday service at Soweto's Regina Mundi church outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday Jan. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) | CTV News
SECOND READING: Detail of an Icon of St. Paul the Apostle | Image in public domain
GOSPEL: Le Christ et la Cananéenne (1784), The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ by Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-1788) in the Louvre Museum | Public Domain
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The Universal Call to Salvation

commentary
Pope Francis - pictured in April 2020 leading a Mass to commemorate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.

"...their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. — Isaiah 56:7

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First Reading

Is 56:1, 6-7

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

God’s house is for all peoples

FIRST READING—God loves all people and not just his chosen people. As Isaiah writes these words during the post-exilic period of Israel’s history, there are lots of foreigners living in Israel. Many Jews, including the leaders, consider such people as outsiders and resist their joining in the worship services even though they are willing to accept the God of Israel and follow his ways. Isaiah challenges such a parochial and narrow mentality. Isaiah deems that if non-Jews “love the name of the Lord, become his servants, observe Sabbath, hold to God’s covenant,” then they must be welcomed into God’s house of prayer for “God’s house is for all peoples.”

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

Universalism in Third Isaiah

FIRST READING—As is often the case [the reading at Mass] is truncated so it is necessary to go to the Bible and read chapter 56. “and the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord…them I will bring to my holy mountain.” and “For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

This universalism which is to be read in Third Isaiah was not everyone’s understanding. In the prophet Zechariah 8:7 we read, “I will rescue my people from the land of the rising sun and the land of the setting sun. I will bring them back to dwell within Jerusalem. They shall be my people, and I will be their God, with faithfulness and justice.”

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God will welcome even those beyond Israel

FIRST READING—Paul appeals to the Gentile Christians in Rome to be grateful to the Jews for the heritage that has come to the Gentiles now through the history of salvation which began among the Jews. Salvation is now available to all nations. Paul hopes that the Jews will become jealous of the Gentiles who are now entering God’s kingdom and come to claim what had been promised to them originally. Note that Paul does not say that God has gone back on promises made to the Jews. The invitation is still there for them to accept. The Jewish nation has not been rejected by God.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The call to do what is right and just

FIRST READING—This reading speaks of what is “right” and “just,” two terms we use in the dialogue of the preface of each eucharistic prayer, replacing the response: “It is right to give God thanks and praise.” There is a world of shared meaning between the terms. Together, they describe how a community lives the covenant; individually, the two terms give a particular slant to how that is done.

Technically, being just is essentially a matter of observing the commandments. This is not the same as obeying the law of the land — a requirement that binds all citizens at a primitive stage of moral maturity by exacting a price when one disobeys. We might describe the Hebrew sense of obedience as appreciative rather than legalistic. Obedience is a response to God’s loving outreach. One obeys the commandments because they come from God’s love, because they are a way to live in that love. We may have been taught about some sort of “blind obedience,” the obligation to obey simply because the commandments were made with authority.  A justice- oriented concept of obedience reveals the inverse. Rather than being blind, obedience comes from a clarity of vision, participation, and loving the one from whom the command comes. Being “just” is obedience to a relationship of love.

The word right in this reading has the same root as the word translated as salvation in the next line. It has to do with deliverance, with making things become as they should be. Speaking of God, it refers to faithfulness and mercy. Righteousness might be conceived of as the ongoing activity that keeps the covenant alive and growing. Thus, the opening part of today’s reading is a call to live in faithfulness to the covenant, both in the sense of obeying the commandments, and in active efforts to make the world what God intended it to be.

From there, the reading goes on to reflect on the breadth of God’s plan. There’s the underlying awareness that Israel is God’s chosen people. Israel is to be such a light that the nations will be attracted to God by her way of life. Here we run into a challenge of righteousness as bigness of heart. The prophet says that the foreigners who join themselves to God, the aliens who do what is right and just, will be counted as if they were part of the chosen people. They may even offer sacrifices like priests! This is a terrible challenge to people who are proud of their bloodline, the exclusive national or ethnic heritage they think makes them special through no effort or merit of their own.

The reading begins with the call to do what is right and just, to live as a community grateful for God’s love and blessings. Living justly, obeying the commandments as a loving response to God, is one level. The call to do what is right deepens the community’s awareness that what they have received is given for the world, not just for themselves. The reading tells them the only way to truly be God’s people is to be a people who welcome the full participation of all who love God.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Welcoming foreigners into the Covenant

FIRST READING—God told His covenant people through the prophet Isaiah that the Jerusalem Temple shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.  Isaiah received prophetic visions and oracles that concerned the “new Zion” of God’s redeemed people.  God promised that all peoples of the earth could look forward to the Messianic Era when He would extend the gift of salvation to all nations (Is 56:1-12).  The Lord promised that in the “new Zion” of the Messianic Era, He would open His house of worship to those Gentiles previously excluded from Temple worship (Is 56:1, 6a).  In the promised new age, all the righteous who observed His commandments could look forward to participation in the future Messianic salvation regardless of their national origin.  Jesus quoted this verse from the Book of the Isaiah concerning God’s promise for universal salvation when He cleansed the Jerusalem Temple on Sunday and again on Monday of His last week in Jerusalem (Mt 21:10-13 and Mk 11:12, 15-17).

Exploring the Text

The new Zion of the Messianic Era

Isaiah 56:1-66:24 is the third part division of the Book of Isaiah.  It contains prophetic visions and oracles concerning the “new Zion” and the promise that all peoples of the earth can look forward to the Messianic Era when God’s gift of salvation extends to all nations (Is 56:1-12).  In the “new Zion” of the Messianic Era, God says He will open His house of worship to the Gentiles previously excluded from Temple worship (Is 56:1, 6-7).  In the promised new age, all those who are righteous and observe God’s commandments can look forward to participation in the future Messianic salvation, regardless of their national origin.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Five necessary conditions of obedience

In Is 56:6, the Lord lists five necessary conditions of obedience:

  1. Ministering to Him (offering sacrifice, prayer, and praise in liturgical worship)
  2. Loving Him
  3. Becoming willing servants
  4. Keeping the Sabbath obligation
  5. Upholding the covenant by keeping the commandments

How many of these obligations of obedience do you keep?  The New Covenant Sabbath is Sunday, “The Lord’s Day” commemorating Jesus’ Resurrection.  Observing the holiness of the New Covenant Sabbath is one of the Five Precepts that are the minimum obligations for members of the universal Catholic Church (CCC 2041-43).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's holy mountain

To those who are faithful, God promises to bring them to His “holy mountain.”  It is a possible reference to Mt. Moriah (also symbolically called Mt. Zion) in Jerusalem, the site God’s holy Temple, where the faithful offered worship in prayer, praise, and sacrifices to Yahweh.  But it can also refer to the universal Church in the Messianic Age, the age in which we live.  A “holy mountain” is symbolic language in Scripture for a revelation of God, as His chosen people (the children of Israel) experienced a revelation of Yahweh at the “holy mountain” of Mt. Sinai (Ex 19:16-19).  Our “holy mountain” experience in the Messianic Age is in the Liturgy of the Mass, where the faithful “lift up their hearts” and experience a revelation of God the Son in the Eucharist.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's invitation to worship Him

God’s invitation to worship Him in a covenant relationship is not limited to the covenant people of Israel.  It extends to all peoples of every nation, ethnicity, and social status who seek the Lord with a pure heart and live according to His commands.  Jesus quoted verse 7b when He drove the money lenders out of the Temple precincts during His last week in Jerusalem (Mt 21:13a and Mk 15:17a).  The money lenders had likely set up their tables in the Court of the Gentiles.  Buying and selling there would profane the sacred space set aside for teaching the Gentiles about the God of Israel, bringing them into the covenant with Yahweh, and giving them the hope of eternal salvation.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The 'universal' (meaning of the word 'Catholic') Church of Jesus Christ

The “universal” (meaning of the word “Catholic”) Church of Jesus Christ fulfills the Messianic hope of salvation extended to all nations promised in this passage.  It is the Church’s mission to carry the Gospel of salvation to the ends of the earth and to welcome all people of every nation into the family of God through baptism in Christ Jesus (Mt 28:19-20; Mk 16:15-16).  For more information on the “new Zion” see the document “Zion and the Presence of God.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Pope Francis - pictured in April 2020 leading a Mass to commemorate the Last Supper on Holy Thursday.
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The Universal Call to Salvation

commentary
Catholic worshipers participate in Sunday service at Soweto's Regina Mundi church outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday Jan. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) | CTV News

"May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!" — Psalm 67:6

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Responsorial Psalm

Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

O God, let all the nations praise you!

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This hymn of praise may have been written in thanksgiving for a plentiful harvest. It is chosen today because of its strong universalistic strain, thereby connecting it with the first and third readings.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Praise for the Lord of all nations

PSALM—God’s salvation is near to those who keep their trust and hope in Him. God revealed Himself to the children of Israel as the One abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness who offered the promise of salvation beyond their temporal lives. The Fathers of the Church saw in God’s promise of future salvation the Incarnation of the Divine Word, the union of Godhead with human nature in Jesus Christ.

Exploring the Text

Introduction to the Psalm

The title of this psalm in the superscription is, For the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.  A Psalm.  A Song.  In this hymn, the psalmist asks God to continue to show His favor to His covenant people.  The other nations of the earth will see God’s favor to His covenant people as a sign that will reinforce God’s call to all the peoples of the earth to seek His promise of eternal salvation (verse 3).  The psalmist prays all nations will acknowledge God’s just rule and give Him praise (verses 5-7).  The hymn concludes in verse 8 by asking for God’s blessing upon His covenant people and expresses the hope that all nations of the earth will learn to fear offending God and will give Him both their reverence and praise.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
How the Catholic Church fulfills the Messianic promise

The mission of the universal (Catholic) Church is to be the vehicle that fulfills the Messianic promise that all nations will find a home in the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church carries out the desires expressed in this psalm by welcoming all nations into the family of God through the Sacrament of Baptism. The Church’s Liturgy uses this psalm on the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. We acknowledge our Blessed Mother’s role in bringing God’s gift of salvation to all nations through the courage of her submission to God in willingly bringing forth the promised Messiah, Jesus.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Catholic worshipers participate in Sunday service at Soweto's Regina Mundi church outside Johannesburg, South Africa, Sunday Jan. 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay) | CTV News
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The Universal Call to Salvation

commentary
Detail of an Icon of St. Paul the Apostle | Image in public domain

"I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. " — Romans 11:13-14

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Second Reading

Rom 11:13-15, 29-32

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Paul wants to include all people in God’s saving plan

SECOND READING—These verses are a continuation of last week’s reading, which opens Paul’s discussion on the fate of Jews who reject Jesus. Paul is hoping that the crowds of Gentiles joining the New Way will arouse so much envy in his fellow Jews that they will also accept Jesus and his message. Paul expresses his hope and profound desire that all who have initially rejected Jesus will, at some time in the future, accept him. Like Isaiah and Jesus, Paul wants all people to be included in God’s saving plan.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The relationship between Jews and Christians

SECOND READING—[This reading gives us] gives another insight into this most important issue of the relationship between Jews and Christians. Again the most important pieces are the two images: Paul uses, the dough and the grafted branch. If part of the dough is holy the whole loaf is holy. If the roots of the tree are holy then the branches are holy.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permission.

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Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Separation from God for Israel is not permanent

SECOND READING—Chapters 56-66 in the Book of Isaiah, it is generally agreed, were written after the Exile in Babylon when the people of Israel had rebuilt their Temple in Jerusalem after 515 BCE. After their exile, the people are much more open to other nations. They come to understand that God intends to call all peoples to himself. The people of Israel come to see themselves as the appointed instruments of God’s mercy to all the nations of the earth. The Temple will also welcome the sacrifices of the other nations.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Paul’s understanding of faith as a gift

SECOND READING—This selection from Romans concludes Paul’s reflection on the heart-rending, mind-bending question of where God’s providence fits into the fact that the chosen people have not accepted Christ while Gentiles have.

This reading clearly reminds us that Paul wasn’t a Catholic. He was a Jew who believed with all his heart, soul and mind that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ of God. He also believed that since the time of Abraham the Jews had been God’s chosen people and that God would never abandon them. Paul was trying to reconcile the seemingly incompatible forces of his love for his own people, his belief in the God of Abraham and Jesus, and his mission to the Gentiles.

This section of Romans makes us privy to Paul’s own process of coming to understand and accept that faith is a gift. One can almost feel the passion that tore Paul apart as he declared, “The gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.” In the end, all he could do was speculate that if the Jews’ rejection of Jesus had led to the mission to the Gentiles, God would bring even greater blessings to the world through their acceptance. Paul was painfully coming to understand what God had proclaimed through Isaiah: “My ways are not your ways.” Ultimately, he had to accept the reality that God’s grace moves in mysterious ways.

Today, many of us feel the same kind of pain Paul felt. It tears us apart that so many of the baptized have left the practice of faith, that our loved ones do not share our faith, hope and vision. What does Paul’s struggle tell us? First, with Paul we believe that God’s call and God’s desire to draw all into one are invincible. God will not give up. Secondly, we seek God’s mysterious will in all of this. We must ask ourselves serious questions. If God’s grace isn’t doing what we think it ought, what are we called to do? Where is God leading us? To whom and how are we called to give witness?

The last line we hear today from Paul restates the mystery of salvation: At all times, in all ways, God is merciful. God has placed this world in our hands, but we are not saviors, only witnesses called to know and love God as we move along the way.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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God’s irrevocable gifts and call

SECOND READING—St. Paul reminds us in our Second Reading that all peoples of all nations, Jews and Gentiles, can have confidence in God’s call to salvation because the gifts and call of God are irrevocable.  Just as God extended His love and mercy to the Gentiles who were outside the covenant, so too must the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile Christians, as one covenant people, extend God’s mercy and love to our old covenant brothers and sisters.  With the Sinai Covenant fulfilled and replaced by the New Covenant in Christ, Jesus is their only means of salvation (Acts 4:12; Heb 8:6, 13).  Christians, as the younger brothers and sisters, are bound to our Divine Father’s promise to Israel, the elder sons, and daughters of the covenant.  God promised the children of Israel on the eve of their conquest of the Promised Land: For Yahweh your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which he made on oath with your ancestors (Dt 4:31, NJB).  The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses our Christian commitment to our Jewish brothers and sisters of the Old Covenant faith in CCC 674.

Exploring the Text

The stumbling stone

In this passage, St. Paul asked what was God’s intention when He allowed Israel to stumble over the “stumbling stone” that is Jesus Christ by rejecting the Messiah? He asked, “Was it that Israel’s fall should be irredeemable?” Paul answers his rhetorical question by pointing out that their “stumbling” has brought salvation to the Gentiles (verse 13). Then he continued with the consequences for the Jews of extending salvation to the Gentiles.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Paul's repeated use of the word jealous

Interestingly, Paul will repeat the word jealous (arouse to jealousy/envy = parazeloo) three times in Romans 10:19, 11:11, and 11:14 as a key to understanding God’s plan that at first veiled the minds of the Israelites and would later bring them to salvation.  It was Paul’s hope that the Gospel of salvation would stir them to envy the riches of the blessings of the New Covenant people, and also motivate them to accept, through grace, the salvation of Jesus Christ.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The 'stone untouched' by human hands

This hope of salvation is brought about not through Jesus Christ as the “stumbling stone” but as the “stone untouched” by human hands prophesied by the prophet Daniel: In those days the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and this kingdom will not pass into the hands of another race; it will shatter and absorb all the previous kingdoms and itself last forever—just as you saw a stone, untouched by hand, break away from the mountain and reduce iron, bronze, earthenware, silver, and gold to powder.  “The mountain” in the passage refers to the Jerusalem Temple.  Through God’s design, the Israelites/Jews refused to accept Jesus as their Messiah, and yet they remain the “chosen people.”  It is the “new Israel of the holy “remnant” of Jesus’ Jewish Apostles and disciples who functioned in God’s plan as Israel’s representatives, as the nucleus of the universal Church, and as the pledge of God’s promise of the future restoration of all Israel.  See Isaiah’s promise in 4:3-6 and Paul’s proclamation of the salvation of Israel in Romans 11:25-26 (also see CCC 877).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
How Israel's loss is a great gain

St. Paul’s point is that Israel’s loss is a great gain:

  1. to the world
  2. for the Gentiles
  3. for the restored Israelites

Why?  Because:

  1. Israel’s renunciation of the Messiah forces Jesus’ faithful remnant of New Covenant disciples to carry the Gospel message of salvation outside of the Holy Land and into the world.  Thereby, in their expanded mission, they gathered in all the Gentile nations, thus fulfilling the worldwide blessing God promised the Patriarch Abraham (see Gen 12:3; 22:15-18 and Gal 3:29).
  2. The gain of the Gentiles is the wealth of their spiritual riches, which they have come to share in what was formerly solely the inheritance of Israel.  Their inheritance is knowledge of and covenant fellowship with the One True God and the hope of eternal salvation.  Carrying the Gospel message to the world brings the Gentile nations back into covenant with God as children of His holy, universal family, the Catholic Church.
  3. The ten tribes who were scattered among the Gentile nations (the lost tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel) by the Assyrians in the 8th century BC, will be fully restored to their place of destiny as children of God in the universal Church!  It is what the prophets promised from the time of the Assyrian exile of the ten Northern Tribes, beginning with the first of the Israelites taken out of the Galilee.  The Galilean tribes of tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, taken into captivity in 732 BC, were scattered into Gentile lands to the east, and the rest of the Northern Kingdom followed them into exile in 722 BC.  It was for this reason that Jesus began His ministry in the Galilee, to restore Israel in the very area where the loss of the Promised Land began (see Mt 4:12-16 quoting Is 8:23-9:1 LXX and 2 Kng 15:29; 17:6-7, 24 ).

Saint Paul’s belief in the promises of God made through His holy prophets gives him the confidence to make this claim of a future restoration of his people.  The prophet Isaiah prophesied the fulfillment of the worldwide blessing and the ingathering of the nations in Isaiah 66:18, I am coming to gather every nation and every language.  They will come to witness my glory.

In Romans 11:13-15, Paul speaks of his pride in being an apostle to the Gentiles, but the reunification of Israel as a covenant people is also part of Paul’s mission.  When Paul suffered in blindness and repentance in Damascus after his conversion experience, God told the Christian prophet Ananias concerning Paul: “for this man is my chosen instrument to bring my name before Gentiles and kings and before the people of Israel” (boldness added for emphasis).  Significantly, God didn’t say “Judah” (the nation of Israel ceased to exist with the Assyrian conquest in 722 BC, and only the Southern Kingdom of Judah remained).  St. Paul understood that his mission included the reunification of all the lost tribes of Israel back into the covenant family by bringing their descendants back from the Gentile peoples in whom their bloodline was mixed throughout the centuries.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Paul's comparison of the lost tribes and resurection from the dead

In verse 14, Paul said he hoped to stir his Israelite brothers to envy to bring them into the New Covenant.  Then in verse 15, he compares the ingathering of the lost tribes into the New Covenant family with the promise of resurrection from the dead.  However, what Paul means by this comparison is not clear.  He may be comparing the resurrection of a spiritually dead Israel to a rebirth in the Sacrament of Christian Baptism (called the “first resurrection”).  He may also be using the comparison of a new life in Christ for those who carry the blood of Abraham, even unknowingly, in Gentile nations with Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead (see Rom 6:4).  However, he might also be expressing that the conversion of Israel will be such a miracle that it can only be compared to the final (“second”) bodily Resurrection of the dead at the end of time when Jesus returns

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The gifts and call of God are irrevocable

There were Jews who rejected the salvation offered to them through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, becoming enemies Christians.  In doing so, they stood in opposition to God’s Divine Plan of universal salvation.  God permitted this reversal for Israel in the Messianic Age of the universal Church.  However, since the gifts and the covenants with God are irrevocable, He is still faithful to the promises He made to the Patriarchs in choosing the children of Israel as His covenant people.  There is no change of mind on God’s part about the gifts He made or His choice.  In Paul’s statement, we have the tension between the two great stages of Salvation History: Election and Gospel.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Sin and mercy

In verses 30-32, St. Paul addresses the Gentile Christians. He admonishes them to remember that they sin just as the Jews sin, and so they are equal in that regard. However, just as God has shown mercy to the Gentiles to bring them to salvation through Israel’s rejection, He will also show mercy to the Jews.

Verses 30-32 are similar to what Paul wrote in Galatians 3:21-22 ~ Is the Law contrary, then, to God’s promises?  Out of the question!  If the Law that was given had been capable of giving life, then certainly saving justice would have come from the Law.  As it is, Scripture makes no exception when it says that sin is master everywhere; so the promise can be given only by faith in Jesus Christ to those who have this faith.  Just as God extended His love and mercy to the Gentiles who were outside the covenant, so too must the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile Christians, as one covenant people, must extend God’s mercy and love to exiled Israel.  With the Sinai Covenant fulfilled and replaced by the New Covenant in Christ, Jesus is their only means of salvation (Acts 4:12; Heb 8:6, 13).  And Christians, the younger brothers and sisters, are bound to our Divine Father’s promise to Israel, the elder sons and daughters of the covenant.  As God promised the children of Israel just before the conquest of the Promised Land: For Yahweh your God is a merciful God and will not desert or destroy you or forget the covenant which he made on oath with your ancestors (Dt 4:31).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Our Christian commitment to our Jewish brothers and sisters

The Catechism of the Catholic Church expresses our Christian commitment to our Jewish brothers and sisters of the Old Covenant faith.  CCC 674: “The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by ‘all Israel,’ for ‘a hardening has come upon part of Israel’ in their ‘unbelief’ toward Jesus.  St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost:  ‘Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.’  St. Paul echoes him: ‘For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?’  The ‘full inclusion’ of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in wake of ‘the full number of the Gentiles,’ will enable the People of God to achieve ‘the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,’ in which ‘God may be all in all'” (quoting from Rom 11:20-26; Acts 3:19-21; Rom 11:15; Rom 11:12, 25; Eph 4:13 and 1 Cor 15:28).  To pray for and to be a witness for Christ to our Jewish brothers and sisters is the obligation of every Christian.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Detail of an Icon of St. Paul the Apostle | Image in public domain
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The Universal Call to Salvation

commentary
Le Christ et la Cananéenne (1784), The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ by Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-1788) in the Louvre Museum | Public Domain

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” — Matthew 15:26

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Gospel Reading

Mt 15:21-28

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Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

A woman’s faith in Jesus’ saving power

GOSPEL—The biggest pastoral issue in the early Church has to do with the antagonistic treatment of Gentiles, especially those who embrace Jesus and his New Way. In Jesus’ time, Gentiles are despised by Jews and seen as “good fuel for the fires of hell.”

Matthew has Jesus confine his mission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But Jesus is also open to showing God’s mercy to non-Jews. We can feel the tension in the story as the Gentile woman refuses to go away. The disciples want Jesus to get rid of this “blathering woman” who keep yelling at them as she searches for deliverance for her daughter from an evilspirit. The story even shows Jesus’ reluctance to deal with her. Worse still, he calls the woman a “dog”! What’s going on here?

Some commentators try to get Jesus off the hook for his nasty remark, but perhaps we need to accept the fact that Jesus, in this case, is acting like a normal first century Jew who called Gentiles ‘dogs.’

However, the real point of this story is not Jesus and his seeming rudeness, but the woman and her wonderful tenacity and faith. She was simply not going to be put off, even by rudeness. Her comeback plea is so humble and yet so firm that even the Son of God cannot say ‘no’ to her. Fr. Dennis McBride notes: “The Canaanite woman is the only person in the Gospel who has the wit to outwit Jesus. In the end, she gets what she was seeking.” (Used with permission granted by Denis McBride CSSR, Seasons of the Word.)

Many scholars believe that the woman’s faith helped Jesus to see that his mission was not just to the ‘lost sheep of the house of Israel’ but to all peoples—Jews and Gentiles alike.

The tenacity and persistence of the woman should be a source of inspiration to all people who are in any way oppressed and put down. The Canaanite woman lives in a male-dominated society. She is a foreigner who ventures alone into a Jewish milieu. When confronted by a distant – and should we say rude – Jesus, she does not sulk. Rather, she persists until she gets what she wants. Despite her background, she ends up as one of the most highly commended persons in the Gospel. Christ came for all. God really wants all at the table. The woman’s wonderful faith in Jesus’ saving power is the central point of this story. .

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Sr. Patricia Stevenson's Reflection

The pattern of mixed community

GOSPEL—The story of the Canaanite woman and her encounter with Jesus has important issues for Christians.

Matthew’s community, as far as we know, comprised mainly Christians of Jewish birth but there were some who were born Gentile. This pattern of a mixed community is very common today.

Matthew takes a miracle story from the Markan collection and uses it to illustrate important truths.

The story becomes a dialogue between Jesus and a woman of faith. It is like overhearing a person at prayer. The woman has a request of Jesus, her daughter is ill. She describes it as being cruelly tormented by a demon.

Jesus is silent. The disciples are embarrassed. Jesus having ignored the woman speaks to the disciples. “I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is Jesus’ mission statement.

The woman repeats her request. Jesus answers by repeating his stance through the image of throwing the children’s food to animals. This image makes his position and understanding of his mission crystal clear. That should have been the end of it. The God of Israel is pledged in covenant to the Jews. In 10:5 as Jesus is sending out the disciples we read, “Do not go among the Gentiles…” The people of Israel take precedence at the banquet of God’s kingdom.

To return to the story; the woman does not leave, but uses Jesus’ colourful imagery to confound him. In ordinary households pets are always to be found near the table. Quite often their persistence is rewarded by getting not only scraps but titbits.

I’m sure Jesus laughed at being so nicely caught. “O woman, great is your faith. Let it be done to you according to your will.”

If we read the passage from Romans we gain another insight into this most important issue of the relationship between Jews and Christians. Again the most important pieces are the two images Paul uses, the dough and the grafted branch. If part of the dough is holy the whole loaf is holy. If the roots of the tree are holy then the branches are holy.

If we are true to who we are as a biblical people, then we must acknowledge ourselves as a wild branch grafted to the root stock of Israel. Christians share in the relationship of Israel with God through Jesus. The Canaanite woman, through faith in Jesus, typifies this relationship.

©2005 Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart. Used with permision.

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Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau's Reflection

A bold Canaanite woman also receives mercy

GOSPEL—Matthew continues with Jesus instructing his disciples, all Jews, about their responsibility toward the people of other nations. Matthew wants to make sure that the leaders of the assembly in which he is a scribe or teacher will be formed with an open attitude toward the Gentiles also. Now that the Temple in Jerusalem is no more and that most Jews have been deported from Jerusalem (It will be the 20th century before the Jews once again are allowed to return there), Matthew is eager that his community of Christian-Jews would have an open attitude toward Gentiles, an attitude that is not always shared by other groups of Jews in the Diaspora. Those Jews who believe in Jesus cannot shut others out of their experience of believing in Jesus. If they have faith in Jesus, they need to be welcomed.

Matthew constructs his Gospel as an instruction to the leaders of his Christian-Jewish community with deliberate precision in this section,too. In the passage just before the one proclaimed today (Matthew 15:1-20),he has Jesus dealing with the laws of ritual purity as they pertainto food, declaring that it is what comesout of a person’s mouth that makes that person ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’and not what goes into it: food.

Now, he presents the scene where a Canaanite woman, unclean by definition since she is a Gentile, speaks words of faith in Jesus. Thus, Matthew illustrates his previous teaching from Jesus, by showing that goodness and holiness can come out of the mouth of even a Gentile. The woman is bold. She has to be bold in a society where persons are so radically separated from one another that one has no claim on a Jewish teacher if one is a Gentile.

The sharp exchange between Jesus and this woman is not meant to be offensive for either party. It represents the culture of the times. There can be no doubt, though, that Matthew is writing for a Jewish audience which knows that it has a prior claim on God’s mercy because the promise of salvation was first addressed to the Jews. This woman has suffered long enough under the fact of exclusion from the hopes of her Jewish neighbors; she is going to shout until she is heard.

Gentiles were often called dogs by the Jews. Thereis nothing unusual about Jesus’response to her. Matthew has him speaking out of his tradition. But, the woman reminds Jesus of the facts of her culture. Whereas in Jewish homes dogs were kept outside, in Gentile homes, dogs were household pets, kept in the family. In effect, she is saying that she is no stranger to the Jewish promises of salvation even though she is a Gentile because she has been in the house all along!

Jesus will go beyond the Jewish experience of his times and will respond favorably to a woman who demonstrates such faith. The message for the Christian community has to be quite clear: faith will allow one to overcome even the obstacle of traditional alienations and separations. No one can be denied access to the mercy of God if that one believes in Jesus Christ. If Jesus reached across the divisions of traditional separateness between Jews and Gentiles, while still affirming the priority of Jewish claims to God’s mercy, what should we not do in the face of all our separations and divisions?

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

A woman of great faith

GOSPEL—Today’s Gospel depicts Jesus on his way toward the border between Jewish and pagan territory. As he moves one way, a Canaanite woman is coming from her side of the line toward Jewish land. Where they meet is the crux of the story.

In terms of cultural boundaries, the woman is the one who leads in crossing over. When she appeals to Jesus for help, she first refers to him as Lord, addressing him like a disciple. Then she astutely calls him “Son of David,” a Jewish title perfectly designed to further her cause. As a kingly son of David, he was responsible for the care of widows, orphans and foreigners. This woman and her daughter might have qualified on all three counts: There is no mention of her husband and she is surely an outsider to Judaism.

In spite of all of that, Jesus exhibited a decidedly unchristlike attitude and refused to acknowledge that she had a claim on him. He simply ignored her.

What more could the woman have done? Jesus was the exorcist par excellence, the vanquisher of demons, and yet, he wasn’t even tempted to accept this woman’s plea to free her daughter from torment. When the disciples suggested that he dismiss her, he still refused to acknowledge her presence and replied to them that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel.

But a reluctant healer is no match for a desperate mother. Matthew depicts how she moved from the sidelines to put herself directly in Jesus’ path. Even if she had to force him to trip over her, she was going to command his attention. Instead of begging for mercy, she asks for his help. Her request for mercy was a plea for empathy, an imitation of Israel’s prayer which asks God to be emotionally involved in the plight of the one praying. In asking for help, she’s moved out of the realm of appealing to sympathy; she only asks for action: “No matter why you do it, please, just do it!”

Jesus replies with the explanation that his mission is directed to his own people, their enemies count no more than dogs. Read literally, Jesus has gone from ignoring to insulting her, which is actually an advance. He now recognizes her and treats her the same way he had just treated the Pharisees he had called hypocrites. She immediately seizes the opening he let slip. “Ah, but look at the children and their masters! Are they taking advantage of the banquet? No! They’re letting it fall, uneaten. Let me get some of what they’re not taking!”

Her retort might as well be as direct as saying, “They don’t pay attention to you, you don’t pay attention to me. Why not give to those who desire what you offer? I don’t mind the left-overs, and from what I can see, you’ve got more than enough waiting for the taking!”

In the end, she got him. She got not only his help, but his admiration: “O woman, great is your faith!” Her recognition of his power went beyond the barriers of ethnicity and religion. She had started out with the vocabulary of Jewish faith, and she backed it up with belief so insistent that he too came to believe that he could help her.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

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Reward for the persistence of faith

GOSPEL—The Gospel reading has two messages for us.  The first message is that no one is unworthy of God’s mercy or His gifts.  The second message is that we must be persistent in prayer when petitioning the Lord.  Our persistence is a demonstration of our faith in God’s power to intercede in our lives.  In the Gospel Reading, Jesus demonstrated God’s mercy in the universal granting of His gifts.  Jesus’ mission was first to announce the coming Kingdom of God to the Jews, the “lost sheep of the House of Israel,” but He healed the child of a Gentile woman who was not a member of the Sinai Covenant when she expressed her faith and trust in Jesus to save her child.  Jesus’ gift of eternal salvation is available to everyone who comes to Him in faith and obedience.

God’s gift of eternal salvation does not mean that everyone will receive the gift of eternal salvation regardless of their beliefs or practices.  The belief that everyone will achieve eternal salvation is the heresy of universalism.  See the document “Ancient Heresies Recycled in the Modern Age.” One must make the free-will commitment to accept God’s gift of salvation by living in a covenant relationship with God the Son; no one can make it to Heaven on their own merits.

The Church prays, in today’s alternate opening prayer, that people of all races and nationalities will answer God’s call to salvation and join the family of the universal Church: “Almighty God, ever-loving Father, your care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nations to the hearts of all who live.  May the walls, which prejudice raises between us, crumble beneath the shadow of your outstretched arm.  We ask this through Christ, our Lord.  Amen.”

Exploring the Text

Jesus' excursion into Gentile territory

In this passage, Jesus makes His second expedition into Gentile territory where Jews are living.  His first visit to Gentile territory was the eastward journey into the Decapolis (Mt 9:28-34).  This time He travels west toward the Mediterranean Sea into the district of two great Gentile trading centers, Tyre and Sidon.  These cities were Phoenician, but in Jesus’ time, they were centers of Hellenistic (Greek) culture and prestige under Roman rule.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus' tests a Canaanite woman's faith

A Gentile woman, described as a descendant of the Canaanites, approached Jesus and asked Him to heal her daughter of demon possession.  The woman appealed to Jesus three times, and He tested her faith three times.  Notice that in her first appeal that she respectfully called Jesus “son of David,” acknowledging His Messianic title as the promised Davidic heir.  In St. Mark’s Gospel, he tells us that the woman “fell at his feet in homage” (Mk 7:25), showing Jesus the respect He deserved as the promised Davidic heir.

Jesus’ first test was to ignore her request, but when she persisted, He finally responded. Jesus’ reply seems unfeeling. He told her that He has only come for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” This is His Messianic mission, as stated in Ezekiel chapter 34. It is His mission to gather the scattered sheep of Israel and to heal and restore God’s people of the new Israel to fulfill their destiny to carry the Gospel of salvation to the Gentile nations of the earth.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Throwing food to the dogs

The woman, however, was not discouraged by Jesus’ reply, and she made a second appeal.  In His second reply, “the children” are the children of Israel who are God’s chosen people, the “food” is the word of God and His merciful blessings, and the “dogs,” unclean animals not fit for sacrifice, are the Gentiles.  The Jews often referred to Gentiles as unclean “dogs” because, as a people not in covenant with God, they were unfit to give Him worship or sacrifice.  St. Mark’s Gospel softens Jesus’ response.  Jesus says, let the children be fed first.  For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the [little] dogs” (Mk 7:25a).  The Greek softens Jesus’ response by using the term “little dogs” or “puppies” (kynarion), suggesting domesticated “house dogs.”  Jesus intends to test the woman’s faith.  Nevertheless, the essence of His answer is the same that He gave the Samaritan woman at the well: salvation is from the Jews (Jn 4:22).

The Gentile woman continues to press her petition.  Her clever reply is that even the house dogs eat the scraps under their master’s table, suggesting that God feeds the Jews as well as Gentiles.  The persistence of the woman’s petition, together with her faith that Jesus had the power to heal her daughter, moved Jesus to reward her.  Jesus complimented her on her faith and healed her child.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The Gospel reading has two messages for us'

The Gospel reading has two messages for us.  The first message is that no one is unworthy of God’s mercy or His gifts.  The second message is that we must be persistent in prayer when petitioning the Lord.  Our persistence is a demonstration of our faith in God’s power to intercede in our lives. God’s gift of eternal salvation does not mean that everyone can expect the gift of salvation regardless of their beliefs or practices.  The belief that everyone will achieve eternal salvation is the heresy of universalism.  See the document “Ancient Heresies Recycled in the Modern Age.”  One must make the free-will commitment to accept God’s gift of salvation by living in a covenant relationship with God the Son; no one can make it to God’s heavenly Kingdom on their own merits.  As St. Peter testified before the Jewish Sanhedrin (court of law): “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Today, in the alternate opening prayer, the Church prays that people of all races and nationalities will answer God’s call to salvation and join the family of the universal Church: “Almighty God, ever-loving Father, your care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nations to the hearts of all who live.  May the walls, which prejudice raises between us, crumble beneath the shadow of your outstretched arm.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Le Christ et la Cananéenne (1784), The Woman of Canaan at the Feet of Christ by Jean-Germain Drouais (1763-1788) in the Louvre Museum | Public Domain

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The Universal Call to Salvation

Nowhere else on earth had so many different groups of people been absorbed into one nation and gathered into a Church.

Different Ethnic Groups

Pastoral Connection

by Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau

Different ethnic groups of Catholics have enriched the fabric of society in America with the vast migrations which took place especially in the 19th century. People from poorer nations came to this land seeking a better future for themselves and for their children. Catholics came from Germany and from Ireland, from Italy and from Poland, from Quebec and from Mexico. When new territories were added, we acquired people of French and Spanish and Native American ancestry.

Nowhere else on earth had so many different groups of people been absorbed into one nation and gathered into a Church which became so diverse in its cultural makeup.

Not without struggle and strife, though, did these elements become blended into one community of faith. At times, the Americanizing strategy of Irish-American bishops seemed to threaten the German Catholics and the Polish Catholics and the French Catholics. Irish-American priests were favored by Rome to become bishops because they were “born speaking English,” the national language of the United States. It was thought that they could provide more effective leadership for a Catholic community in a country which was mostly Protestant and English-speaking and unfriendly to ethnics from non-English-speaking countries.

Often, these diverse groups dug in their heels and held out against being absorbed into the “American culture,” which was perceived as being “Protestant and hostile.” Some Catholics thought that even other Catholics were a threat to them because they spoke a different language. French Canadians were warned by their pastors when they left Quebec to come to New England that if they lost their language they would surely lose their faith! “Perdre sa langue c ‘est perdre sa foi!”

When I was ordained 62years ago, there were two tracks for clergy promotions in the Diocese of Portland, the French and the Irish tracks. Priests who became pastors of parishes had to wait until there was an opening in a parish of their ethnic group. The ‘Irish’ priests (read: all those who were not French!) became pastors after having served as ‘assistants’ for approximately 15 years; ‘French’ priests became pastors after approximately 25 years (!) since there were more ‘French’ priests than there were ‘French’ parishes. I went to a priest’s funeral in New Hampshire shortly after my ordination. I was told that I was standing on the wrong side of the grave at the burial. There was one side for the French clergy and another side for the Irish clergy!

Is it any wonder that Catholics have found it hard to cooperate and collaborate with one another in those towns and cities with parishes from diverse ethnic heritages?

ECHOING GOD’S WORD – © 2017 Rev. Clement D. Thimbodeau (1932-2017); Used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Image from History.com showing immigrants to this country.

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The Universal Call to Salvation

Faith Sharing

Questions

Opening Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Lord Jesus, you loved everyone without exception. If at this time, I am excluding someone from my circle of love, help me to have a change of heart.

Questions

Three sets of questions suitable for individual or group use. Choose one to best fit your purpose and time restraints: Faith Sharing Questions (by Fr. Eamon Tobin), Discussion Questions (by Fr. Clement D. Thibodeau), and Scripture Study Questions (by Vince Contreras).

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Faith Sharing Questions

1. Turn to the person next to you and share what word/s or image/s in the readings caught your attention. Did they comfort or challenge you or touch you in some way?

2. The first and third readings are about God’s inclusiveness. How inclusive are you? Are there individuals and groups that you prefer not to mix with?

3. For hundreds of years, African Americans were not welcome in our Church. How inclusive is our Church at this time? Who or what groups may not feel welcome in our Church?

4. In the Gospel, the woman shows great perseverance and faith. She was not going to be denied. Can you remember a time when your perseverance and/or faith gained you something you would not have gotten without those qualities?

5. Name one thing today’s Gospel says to us that we disciples of Jesus need to heed and act on.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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Discussion Questions

1. Is it any wonder that parts of the Middle East are in such turmoil when vastly different ethnic and religious groups have historically been so hostile to one another? What do you think is the ideal solution to that problem and why?

2. Have you ever felt that you were being denied some of your rights in society because of your race, gender, ethnic origins or religion? How did that feel? What was your response?

3. What do you think God will do to those persons who have never consciously made a decision for or against faith in Jesus Christ, simply because they do not know him? Suppose people refuse to become Catholic or Christians because they see so many scandals in the lives of those who are supposed to be following the teachings of Jesus. What will God do with those?

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Used with permission.

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Scripture Study Questions

1. Regarding the 2nd Reading: from what religious roots does Christianity come? If you are not ethnically Jewish, what do those roots make you, as a believer in Christianity? With what kind of awe, then, should you regard Judaism? With what kind of awe should you regard the grace of God in you?

2. In the 1st Reading, the prophet Isaiah foretells the inclusion of Gentiles in the kingdom of God, and the enthusiasm and sincerity of their worship. How well are you fulfilling this prophecy?

3. Look at a map of Israel in Jesus’ time. Where is Tyre and Sidon in relation to Jerusalem? • How would Jesus’ accusers in verses 1-20 have viewed his 100-mile “detour” to the region of Tyre and Sidon? Would they have likely done the same? Why or why not? • What do we learn about the Canaanite woman? How are you like her? Not like her?

4. What do we learn about Jesus? About Jesus’ attitude toward non-Jews?

5. When you deal with needy people or “outsiders,” are you more like the disciples or Jesus? Why? How has God gone a long distance to heal you?

6. Do you ever feel “put off” by the Lord? What happens to your faith when God appears not to answer? Do you give up, or do you persist? Do you seek Jesus with expectant faith?

© 2011 Vince Contreras. Used with permission.

Closing Prayer

by Fr. Eamon Tobin

Lord Jesus, you love all people without exception.You love us even when we fail you and show prejudice. Change our hearts. Make them big and compassionate like yours.Amen.

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The Universal Call to Salvation

The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas uses:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to show/hide an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary of the Gospels.

Matthew 15:21-28

21. Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.

23. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.

24. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.

26. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.

27. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.

28. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

JEROME. Leaving the Scribes and Pharisees and those cavillers, He passes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; that He may heal the Tyrians and Sidonians; And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.

REMIGIUS. Tyre and Sidon were Gentile towns, for Tyre was the metropolis of the Chananæans, and Sidon the boundary of the Chananæans, towards the north.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. lii.) It should be observed, that when He delivered the Jews from the observance of meats, He then also opened the door to the Gentiles, as Peter was first bidden in the vision to break this law, and was afterwards sent to Cornelius. But if any should ask, how it is that He bade His disciples go not into the way of the Gentiles, and yet now Himself walks this way; we will answer, first, that that precept which He had given His disciples was not obligatory on Him; secondly, that He went not to preach, whence Mark even says, that He purposely concealed Himself.

REMIGIUS. He went that He might heal them of Tyre and Sidon; or that He might deliver this woman’s daughter from the dæmon, and so through her faith might condemn the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Of this woman it proceeds; And, behold, a woman, a Chananite, came out from those parts.

CHRYSOSTOM. The Evangelist says that she was a Chananæan, to shew the power of Christ’s presence. For this nation, which had been driven out that they might not corrupt the Jews, now shewed themselves wiser than the Jews, leaving their own borders that they might go to Christ. And when she came to Him, she asked only for mercy, as it follows, She cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, thou Son of David.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The great faith of this Chananæan woman is herein shewed. She believes Him to be God, in that she calls Him Lord; and man, in that she calls Him Son of David. She claims nothing of her own desert, but craves only God’s mercy. And she says not, Have mercy on my daughter, but Have mercy on me; because the affliction of the daughter is the affliction of the mother. And the more to excite His compassion, she declares to Him the whole of her grief, My daughter is sore vexed by a dœmon; thus unfolding to the Physician the wound, and the extent and nature of the disease; its extent, when she says is sore vexed; its nature, by a dæmon.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. in quædam loca, xlvii.) Note the wisdom (ΦιλθσόΦιαν) of this woman, she went not to men who promised fair, she sought not useless bandages, but leaving all devilish charms, she came to the Lord. She asked not James, she did not pray John, or apply to Peter, but putting herself under the protection of penitence, she ran alone to the Lord. But, behold, a new trouble. She makes her petition, raising her voice into a shout, and God, the lover of mankind, answers not a word.

JEROME. Not from pharisaical pride, or the superciliousness of the Scribes, but that He might not seem to contravene His own decision, Go not into the way of the Gentiles. For He was unwilling to give occasion to their cavils, and reserved the complete salvation of the Gentiles for the season of His passion and resurrection.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) And by this delay in answering, He shews us the patience and perseverance of this woman. And He answered not for this reason also, that the disciples might petition for her; shewing herein that the prayers of the Saints are necessary in order to obtain any thing, as it follows, And his disciples came unto him, saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us.

JEROME. The disciples, as yet ignorant of the mysteries of God or moved by compassion, beg for this Chananæan woman; or perhaps seeking to be rid of her importunity.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 49.) A question of discrepancy is raised upon this, that Mark says the Lord was in the house when the woman came praying for her daughter. Indeed Matthew might have been understood to have omitted mention of the house, and yet to have been relating the same event; but when he says, that the disciples suggested to the Lord, Send her away, for she crieth after us, he seems to indicate clearly that the woman raised her voice in supplication, in following the Lord who was walking. We must understand then, that, as Mark writes, she entered in where Jesus was, that is, as he had noticed above, in the house; then, that as Matthew writes. He answered her not a word, and during this silence of both sides, Jesus left the house; and then the rest follows without any discordance.

CHRYSOSTOM. I judge that the disciples were sorry for the woman’s affliction, yet dared not say ‘Grant her this mercy,’ but only Send her away, as we, when we would persuade any one, oftentimes say the very contrary to what we wish. He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

JEROME. He says that He is not sent to the Gentiles, but that He is sent first to Israel, so that when they would not receive the Gospel, the passing over to the Gentiles might have just cause.

REMIGIUS. In this way also He was sent specially to the Jews, because He taught them by His bodily presence.

JEROME. And He adds of the house of Israel, with this design, that we might rightly interpret by this place that other parable concerning the stray sheep.

CHRYSOSTOM. But when the woman saw that the Apostles had no power, she became bold with commendable boldness; for before she had not dared to come before His sight; but, as it is said, She crieth after us. But when it seemed that she must now retire without being relieved, she came nearer, But she came and worshipped him.

JEROME. Note how perseveringly this Chananæan woman calls Him first Son of David, then Lord, and lastly came and worshipped him, as God.

CHRYSOSTOM. And therefore she said not Ask, or Pray God for me, but Lord, help me. But the more the woman urged her petition, the more He strengthened His denial; for He calls the Jews now not sheep but sons, and the Gentiles dogs; He answered and said unto her, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and give it to dogs.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The Jews were born sons, and brought up by the Law in the worship of one God. The bread is the Gospel, its miracles and other things which pertain to our salvation. It is not then meet that these should be taken from the children and given to the Gentiles, who are dogs, till the Jews refuse them.

JEROME. The Gentiles are called dogs because of their idolatry; who, given to the eating of blood, and dead bodies, turn to madness.

CHRYSOSTOM. Observe this woman’s prudence; she does not dare to contradict Him, nor is she vexed with the commendation of the Jews, and the evil word applied to herself; But she said, Yea, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table. He said, It is not good; she answers, ‘Yet even so, Lord;’ He calls the Jews children, she calls them masters; He called her a dog, she accepts the office of a dog; as if she had said, I cannot leave the table of my Lord.

JEROME. Wonderful are shewn the faith, patience, and humility of this woman; faith, that she believed that her daughter could be healed; patience, that so many times overlooked, she yet perseveres in her prayers; humility, that she compares herself not to the dogs, but to the whelps. I know, she says, that I do not deserve the children’s bread, and that I cannot have whole meat, nor sit at the table with the master of the house, but I am content with that which is left for the whelps, that through humble fragments I may come to the amplitude of the perfect bread.

CHRYSOSTOM. This was the cause why Christ was so backward, that He knew what she would say, and would not have her so great excellence hid; whence it follows, Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee according to thy will. Observe how the woman herself had contributed not a little to her daughter’s healing and therefore Christ said not unto her, ‘Let thy daughter be healed,’ but, Be it unto thee according to thy will; that you may perceive that she had spoken in sincerity, and that her words were not words of flattery, but of abundant faith. And this word of Christ is like that word which said, Let there be a firmament (Gen. 1:6.) and it was made; so here, And her daughter was made whole from that hour. Observe how she obtains what the Apostles could not obtain for her; so great a thing is the earnestness of prayer. He would rather that we should pray for our own offences ourselves, than that others should pray for us.

REMIGIUS. In these words is given us a pattern of catechizing and baptizing children; for the woman says not ‘Heal my daughter,’ or ‘Help her,’ but, Have mercy upon me, and help me. Thus there has come down in the Church the practice that the faithful are sponsors to God for their young children, before they have attained such age and reason that they can themselves make any pledge to God. So that as by this woman’s faith her daughter was healed, so by the faith of Catholics of mature age their sins might be forgiven to infants. Allegorically; This woman figures the Holy Church gathered out of the Gentiles. The Lord leaves the Scribes and Pharisees, and comes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon, this figures His leaving the Jews and going over to the Gentiles. This woman came out of her own country, because the Holy Church departed from former errors and sins.

JEROME. And the daughter of this Chananæan I suppose to be the souls of believers, who were sorely vexed by a dæmon, not knowing their Creator, and bowing down to stones.

REMIGIUS. Those of whom the Lord speaks as children are the Patriarchs and Prophets of that time. By the table is signified the Holy Scripture, by the fragments the best precepts, or inward mysteries on which Holy Church feeds; by the crumbs the carnal precepts which the Jews keep. The fragments are said to be eaten under the table, because the Church submits itself humbly to fulfilling the Divine commands.

RABANUS. But the whelps eat not the crust only, but the crumbs of the children’s bread, because the despised among the Gentiles on turning to the faith, seek out in Scripture not the outside of the letter, but the spiritual sense, by which they may be able to profit in good acts.

JEROME. Wonderful change of things! Once Israel the son, and we the dogs; the change in faith has led to a change in the order of our names. Concerning them is that said, Many dogs hare come about me; while to us is said, as to this woman, Thy faith hath made thee whole. (Ps. 22:16.)

RABANUS. Great indeed was her faith; for the Gentiles, neither trained in the Law, nor educated by the words of the Prophets, straightway on the preaching of the Apostles obeyed with the hearing of the ear, and therefore deserved to obtain salvation.

GLOSS. (non occ.) And if the Lord delays the salvation of a soul at the first tears of the supplicating Church, we ought not to despair, or to cease from our prayers, but rather continue them earnestly.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 18.) And that to heal the Centurion’s servant, and the daughter of this Chananæan woman, He does not go to their houses, signifies that the Gentiles, among whom He Himself went not, should be saved by His word. That these are healed on the prayer of their parents, we must understand of the Church, which is at once mother and children; the whole body of those who make up the Church is the mother, and each individual of that body is a son of that mother.

HILARY. Or, This mother represents the proselytes, in that she leaves her own country, and forsakes the Gentiles for the name of another nation; she prays for her daughter, that is, the body of the Gentiles possessed with unclean spirits; and having learned the Lord by the Law, calls Him the Son of David.

RABANUS. Also whosoever has his conscience polluted with the defilement of any sin, has a daughter sorely vexed by a dæmon. Also whosoever has defiled any good that he has done by the plague of sin, has a daughter tossed by the furies of an unclean spirit, and has need to fly to prayers and tears, and to seek the intercessions and aids of the saints.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000

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The Universal Call to Salvation

Catechism Excerpts

Homiletic Directory

“By using the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the homilist can help his people integrate the word of God, the faith of the Church, the moral demands of the Gospel, and their personal and liturgical spirituality.” From the Homiletic Directory

Kingdom first to Israel, now for all who believe

543 Everyone is called to enter the kingdom. First announced to the children of Israel, this messianic kingdom is intended to accept men of all nations.251 To enter it, one must first accept Jesus’ word:

The word of the Lord is compared to a seed which is sown in a field; those who hear it with faith and are numbered among the little flock of Christ have truly received the kingdom. Then, by its own power, the seed sprouts and grows until the harvest.252

544 The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”;253 he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”254 To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned.255 Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation.256 Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.257

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Christ’s coming hope of Israel ; their final acceptance of Messiah

674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.569 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”570 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”571 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,572 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.573

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Power of invocation with sincere faith

2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.”66 Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.”67 Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of his own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples68 as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.69

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The catholicity of the Church

What does “catholic” mean?

830 The word “catholic” means “universal,” in the sense of “according to the totality” or “in keeping with the whole.” The Church is catholic in a double sense:

First, the Church is catholic because Christ is present in her. “Where there is Christ Jesus, there is the Catholic Church.”307 In her subsists the fullness of Christ’s body united with its head; this implies that she receives from him “the fullness of the means of salvation”308 which he has willed: correct and complete confession of faith, full sacramental life, and ordained ministry in apostolic succession. The Church was, in this fundamental sense, catholic on the day of Pentecost309 and will always be so until the day of the Parousia.

831 Secondly, the Church is catholic because she has been sent out by Christ on a mission to the whole of the human race:310

All men are called to belong to the new People of God. This People, therefore, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and to all ages in order that the design of God’s will may be fulfilled: he made human nature one in the beginning and has decreed that all his children who were scattered should be finally gathered together as one. . . . The character of universality which adorns the People of God is a gift from the Lord himself whereby the Catholic Church ceaselessly and efficaciously seeks for the return of all humanity and all its goods, under Christ the Head in the unity of his Spirit.311

Mission – a requirement of the Church’s catholicity

849 The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”:339 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”340

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