Friday, August 15, 2014

Jesus is for everyone

by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
Buenas Noticias: Blog de Jose Antonio Pagola
August 17, 2014

Matthew 15:21-28

A pagan woman takes the initiative to come to Jesus even though she doesn't belong to the Jewish people. She's a distraught mother who's suffering because her daughter is "tormented by a demon." She goes out to meet Jesus shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David." Jesus' first reaction is unexpected. He doesn't even stop to listen. The time hasn't come yet to bring the Good News of God to the pagans. Since the woman insists, Jesus justifies his actions: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."

The woman doesn't back down. She will overcome all difficulties and resistance. In a bold gesture, she prostrates herself before Jesus, stops him in his path and on her knees, with a humble but steadfast heart, she addresses just one cry to him, "Lord, help me."

Jesus' response is unusual. Although at that time the Jews called the pagans "dogs" quite naturally, his words are offensive to our ears: "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." Taking up his image intelligently, the woman dares to correct Jesus from the ground, "You're right, Lord, but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."

Her faith is admirable. Surely everyone can be fed at the Father's table -- the children of Israel and the pagan dogs too. Jesus seems to think only of the "lost sheep" of Israel, but she is a "lost sheep" too. The Messenger of God can not be just for the Jews. He must be everyone's and for all.

Jesus surrenders before the woman's faith. His answer reveals his humility and greatness: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." This woman is showing him that God's mercy doesn't exclude anyone. The Good Father is above the ethnic and religious barriers that we humans draw.

Jesus recognizes the woman as a believer even though she lives in a pagan religion. He even finds "great faith" in her, not the tiny faith of his disciples whom he reproaches more than once as "men of little faith." Any human being can come to Jesus with confidence. He can recognize their faith even though they're outside the Church. They will always find in him a Friend and a Teacher of life.

We Christians ought to rejoice that Jesus still attracts so many people who are outside the Church today. Jesus is bigger than all our institutions. He continues to do a lot of good, even to those who have turned away from our Christian communities.

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