At the dawn of the history of salvation, God called Abraham, our Father in Faith, and told him that all nations on earth would be blessed by him (cf. Gal 3:8). From the offspring of Abraham, God raised up for himself a nation, Israel, from which the Savior of all nations would come. Therefore, the people of Israel are God’s original Chosen People, the children of the covenant, a special privilege! The descendants of Abraham, the Israelites, understood themselves to be the children of the promise, by God’s own design; all non-Israelites were foreigners.

However, God promised through the prophets that foreigners would also be members of God’s covenant family and would have access to the blessings of the covenant. This is what we hear in today’s remarkable reading from Isaiah: “the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD, and becoming his servants – all who keep the sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” God intended from the beginning that the abundant blessings first promised to the people of Israel would be available to all peoples.

When Jesus Christ came, he established the New Covenant in his Blood, thus replacing the previous covenants which were mere shadows of greater things to come. He knew that his mission was to save the whole world, but he was sent first to the people of Israel. They were the ones prepared by the prophets and the establishment of the Old Covenant. He was intent on this mission when a Canaanite woman came and made a passionate plea for help: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” Since Jesus’ focus was first on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” he was not expecting to open his ministry to foreigners yet. Though his heart was moved with pity for all people, it was not yet the right time for action, so he simply remained silent. His silence gave the woman space in which to increase her faith and strengthen her request. This is the context in which we can understand the Lord’s response to the foreign woman: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Rather than a personal insult, it was a rough way of saying that it was not yet time for foreigners.

The Canaanite woman makes a truly impressive response, an expression of her great faith and deep humility, as well as her persevering maternal love for her suffering daughter: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus immediately reveals that with this answer she has passed the test, and he indicates that the true root of her greatness is in her faith: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Faith and humility give us access to the infinite grace made present in Jesus Christ. This Canaanite woman is a model for all people in every age who long to “join themselves to the LORD” and be brought to his holy mountain. She is a model of the persevering faith and humility by which we also become children of Abraham, members of the covenant family, and thus have a share in God’s blessings.

Jesus Christ the Savior has come to gather all the nations of the world into God’s family through his Blood, the Blood of the New Covenant. As St. Paul puts it, “Now in Christ Jesus, you that used to be so far off have been brought close, by the Blood of Christ” (Eph 2:13). The will of God is that through the Cross all peoples and all nations will be reconciled to him. In today’s second reading, St. Paul shows that his own heart reflects the heart of God; he desires all people to be saved by the mercy of God. As the “apostle to the Gentiles,” he proclaims salvation for them, the foreigners; as a member of the Chosen People, he desires that his own people, the Jews, will also receive mercy.

Jesus Christ renews and makes present at every Eucharistic sacrifice the fruits of his Sacrifice on the Cross through which we receive access to God’s blessings. He makes it possible for us, even though we are foreigners by nature, to really become children of God and eat the “food of the children,” namely the precious Body of Christ. Through his Sacrifice, we cease to be foreigners and become heirs of the Kingdom. When we approach the Lord with a spirit of adoration and “great faith,” like the Canaanite woman who knelt at the feet of Jesus, we implore his mercy, saying: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!” And we can be confident that the Lord will respond with superabundant merciful love.

How does my faith compare with that of the Canaanite woman? How can I approach the Lord with a spirit of great faith and implore his mercy in my daily life? What are some practical ways that I can cultivate humility and perseverance in my relationship with God?

Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 19, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.