With Age-old Love I Have Loved You
Wednesday August 4, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Reading (Jeremiah 31:1-7) Gospel (St. Matthew 15:21-28)
When we hear this story in the Gospel today about how this woman is calling out after the Lord and the Lord gives no reply, on first hearing that strikes us as being very much unlike the Lord. One would think He is going to be filled with mercy and compassion and that He would hear this woman, but He says to her, I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. When the woman continues to push, the Lord, recognizing her faith, blesses her abundantly.
For those of us who already have faith, this gives us great hope. Here is a woman who was not a Jew coming to the Lord to beg a favor, and when the woman demonstrates the depth of her faith the Lord blesses her. But for us, we are already incorporated into Christ, so we are the children, the ones for whom He has come. Therefore, what He wants more than anything is to be able to give us His blessings. Of course, the same requirement is there we have to have faith. It is not enough to be able to sit back and say, Well, Im baptized into the Lord, so everything is mine. We know better than that. Rather, we have to be able to demonstrate our belief in Him and our love for Him; and as that is done, we know it is the very purpose for which He came.
Now we also have to keep in mind that there are a couple of occasions where Our Lord said to certain pagans, I have never seen such faith in Israel. Sometimes it is easier for an outsider to be able to look and have that faith than it is for someone on the inside because we just take it for granted and sometimes we lose our perspective. Yet, at the same time, if we have strayed and I think it is fair to say that there are many within the Church who have certainly done so we look at the first reading and we see the Lord promising to bring His people back from exile. He says, With age-old love I have loved you, therefore I will heal you. The Lord has not abandoned His people. He has made promises, and He will remain faithful to those promises. It is we who have not remained faithful to the promises we have made to Him in Baptism. Yet, at the same time, we hear Our Lord saying that He has loved us. He does love us and He will continue to love us. What He wants is for us to be healed so that we will be faithful, so that we will love Him.
We have all experienced that as we look back in our lives and we see the unfortunate path that we may have walked down, and then we see the mercy of God in our lives at the same time, pulling us out of that, putting us back on the right track, and helping us to live according to the way that we should. So we see that what the Lord has done for us individually is exactly what He wants to do for the whole Church universally. Yet, at the same time, since He came so that the Jews and the Gentiles would be incorporated into the same covenant, He wants this for all the people. So for those who will be able to make that act of faith in Christ and for those who will choose to love Him, we have that guarantee of His mercy, of His love, of being His people and He being our God; not in some theoretical or generic way, but intimately, profoundly united with God through Jesus Christ. That is what He is offering to us.
For us to be able to hear that He loves us (and His love never ends), that He has come for the children of Israel (of which we are the New Israel, being incorporated into Christ), all this is ours if we are only willing to avail ourselves of it. But it requires exactly what we see in this Canaanite woman: faith, humility, and love. If we are willing to humble ourselves, if we are willing to seek Him and His glory, then all the promises He has made are right there for us. He will be our God and we will be His people in love with Him and united with Him forever.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.