FAITHFUL AND FREE
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7,
Chocolate or peanut butter…which do you prefer? You have to make a choice and you can only pick one. That is, until a candy company made the earth-shaking announcement that it put them together in the same candy bar! (I’m dating myself…this happened some time ago.) But the point here is that some things that seem very different can indeed be combined.
Faithful or free…these seem to be contradictory, or at least rather far apart on the spectrum. But our readings today show us that God is faithful and, at the same time, God is free. God is faithful to the old and free to embrace the new. Our human tendency is to focus on one or the other, either faithful or free. But with God it’s both/and. As Scripture reminds us, “Our God is in heaven; whatever He wills, He does” (Psalm 115:3).
God is faithful to His chosen people, the Israelites. But God is also free and open to accepting “foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,” that is, those who hold to God’s covenant even if they are not Israelites by birth. Psalm 67, the Responsorial, echoes this thought, praising the Lord for extending “among all nations, your salvation.”
Jesus seems to ignore the plea of the Canaanite woman that He should set her daughter free from a demon. When the disciples become annoyed at the woman’s insistent calls, Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He is faithful to His mission. But what persuaded Him to help this woman? It was her persistence and her faith, which Jesus characterized as “great.” (The Lord did not use the term “great” to describe the faith of his disciples…it was usually “little” or “none.”) Jesus was indeed conscious of His primary mission and faithful to it, but certainly felt free to make an exception in face of great faith.
St. Paul reminds us that God is faithful: “The gifts and call of God are irrevocable.” God will always be faithful to Israel. But St. Paul is also the Apostle of God’s mercy to the Gentiles – the herald of God’s freedom to act as He chooses. “For God delivered all to disobedience that he might have mercy on all.”
LET GOD BE GOD!
What should we take away from the word of God today? Just this: Let God be God! For our part, we should be as broad as God is and as narrow as God is – no more, no less. He sets the course and makes the rules. He is the Creator and we are the creatures. We can only praise the Lord that He is faithful to His covenant promises of old and likewise praise Him that He is free to have mercy on whom He wishes. And let us especially praise God that we are the recipients of that mercy!