Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
The Lord guides Israel's people out of their Assyrian exile. He leads them back to Jerusalem, saying, “I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they shall be my people.” When all are settled, the Lord appears to Israel and reassures them, “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt. . .” Despite Israel's faithlessness to the Covenant, the Lord keeps His promise. In His great love, He shows mercy. And His mercy brings restoration. The Good News is that God's love and mercy are not limited to the people of Israel. We Gentiles have a Covenant with God too. A Covenant that we too often forget and fail. When the Canaanite woman begs Christ to exorcise her possessed daughter, the Lord says to her, in effect, “I'm not here for you Gentiles. I'm here for the Jews.” The woman replies, in effect, “Even Gentiles get the leftovers from the Jewish table!” Christ, possibly glancing wryly at his disciples to see if they are paying attention, answers her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter is healed.
In these difficult times, Christ could ask his Church, “How great is your faith?” If we were being honest, we might say, “Not so great, actually.” Or perhaps, “Our faith is being tested, Lord.” He might ask us to look carefully at how faithful we are to the Covenant he died to establish. He might ask us to look at how well we love, how well we forgive, how well we find hope in this mess. He might even suggest to us that as a gift from the Father our faith is not the sort of thing we can measure. Faith is received and put to good use, or it is ignored and left to shrivel up. So, maybe the better question for us is: “Have you received the faith our Father freely offers and put it to good use?” If not, why not? Israel was unfaithful to the Covenant established by Abraham. And the Lord allowed the Assyrian Empire to scatter His people all over the region in exile. When they were allowed to return to Jerusalem, the Lord said to them, “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt. . .” So, after suffering the consequences of their sin, Israel is restored and rebuilt. Please notice that the Lord never stopped loving Israel. Allowing Israel to be scattered, to experience the consequences of their unfaithfulness is what brings them back home. In His mercy, the Lord brings them home.
How great is your faith? How well do you forgive, show mercy, live in hope? Not so great? Better than you'd expect? Maybe: needs improvement? However you answer these questions – your faith heals you. Your trust in God's promises heals you. You are freed from your sins using the same measure you use to free others from theirs. And remember the Lord's words to Israel as they return from their exile: “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt. . .”
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