Monday August 18, 2008
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Bishop Gabriel Malzaire from Dominica
My dear friends in Christ.
From the very dawn of creation, God had one single purpose and that was to share Himself with man. Right through the ages as revealed in the Scriptures; we come to unravel the various ways in which our God begins to explain to man that simple purpose, the purpose of salvation. As we read through the Scriptures, we will discover that, that took some time for us to grasp, for man to grasp the fact that God really wanted to share Himself with everyone. Of course, you know how difficult it is to teach one person, let alone many people or many nations. And there was a reason why God chose a particular nation, so that after God had formed them, they would be an instrument of salvation to the rest of the world. In other words, when God called the people of Israel, He called them to mission. And in order to go to mission, we must first be formed. So for two thousand years, the people of Israel were being formed to know God so that they would help the rest of the nations to understand who that God is. God used the patriarchs. He used the judges. He used the prophets. He used the kings. And eventually He used His Son. All during that time, we were simply learning, or man was simply learning how to know God, because of that universal mission. When we read the New Testament, we often take it for granted that we understand that purpose because, first of all, Jesus when He was living with His disciples, He said, “Go out, teach all nations.” But this was not always so evident in the Old Testament.
Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah gives one of the most pertinent evidence of that universal mission of the people of God, or the universal mission of God to His people. It says to us that the house of God will be a house of prayer for all nations – a house of prayer for all nations because in the mind of God, He wanted to include everyone. But, of course, God had to transmit His message through man, and sometimes we were not always prepared for it. We are not always prepared to take up the design of God to imitate the demand of God, to understand what God is saying to us. Remember, His original mission was for everyone. As Isaiah tells us that the house of God will be a house of prayer for all nations. Whenever God calls a people, He always calls them to a mission. He always gives them an outward-looking disposition. Throughout the years, God has graced particular groups of people with particular responsibilities. But the graces that God showers on people at different moments in their life, are not meant simply for themselves, as was the case of Israel. It is always meant for the whole world. We could use Medjugorje as an example, can’t we? Six young people saw visions of our Blessed Lady. From that moment, they were commissioned. For the past 27 years, since the apparitions began, many pilgrims have been coming to this place, because God used as His instrument, six young people, to reveal the goodness of His salvation.
In today’s Gospel reading, we see Jesus encountering a Canaanite woman who was making a special request of Him. “My daughter is in torment and needs your help.” But she was a Gentile, one that did not belong. Whether Jesus was using some psychology or not, but He said, “My mission is for the lost sheep of Israel. My primary mission is for the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Now, we can interpret that in many ways. It may be presented to us what the focus of Jesus was – it was mission. He had come to form the people of Israel so that He would send them out. Remember in the tenth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, in verse six, where Jesus sends out His disciples and says, “Do not go to Samaritan villages, go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel because this is your mission.” Was Jesus excluding anyone? Was that His purpose? No! The purpose of Jesus was that He was forming the people of Israel, so that after being formed, they would go out. But Jesus was not too successful with that, I’m sure you will admit, because after all His work He had only twelve men, and of course, one of them jumped ship. So if we are to look at the success of Jesus, it came only after Pentecost. The very people that He was trying to form, many of them scattered. So we couldn’t say that Jesus was very successful in His mission. We see the challenge being faced by Paul in today’s reading. He is using the Gentiles as a means to get the Jews jealous. and He says that if the jealousy towards the Gentiles would be a means of getting the Jews to believe, then so be it. So the struggle continued even with Paul, but always with the focus of mission. It was the mission of St. Paul. It was the aim of St. Paul to reach all the different parts of the world. This is why he was so prolific in his writings, writing letters to different peoples that he had encountered, that he had preached to, because there was something burning in the heart of Paul that wanted to reach out to the rest of the nations. And in today’s reading he is saying, “Yes, we realize that there is no need to consider this person as a stranger or that person as a stranger.” All of us at some point were strangers, isn’t that so? All of us at some point were strangers. Yes.
To help us realize that the design of God is to minister and to bless the whole world, why are so many people of every nationality, of every nation, of every language, of every field, of every class finding themselves attracted to a place called Medjugorje? Isn’t that the design of God? Exactly what are you talking about in today’s reading? The design of God is to reach the ends of the earth. And this town has been blessed with the gifts that we encounter or we have been encountering for the past few days. And I am sure there are many of you who have come here several times. Why do you return? Because you want to be blessed by what goes on here. You want to be filled by the Spirit of God. You want to listen to the message of salvation that comes from our Blessed Lady. And I am sure in your heart, you do not want to keep that message to yourself, do you? No. You want to go back to your village, back to your city, back to your town, and tell the people how much you have been blessed by your presence here in Medjugorje. It is a continuation of the mission of the Church to reach the ends of the earth. So, God is using a small people, a small group of people, a people who were poor. God is using those simple hearts to reach the ends of the earth. Now everything is mission. It means that if we have received from God, we have a duty to pass that message to the ends of the earth. So the duty of everyone of us here, when you leave Medjugorje to go back to Ireland, to Africa, to the Caribbean, to North America, to South America – wherever you come from – you are to speak like St. Paul, that we were all once strangers, but now we all belong. Everyone belongs. Every one of us belongs to the mission, the mission of bringing enlightenment to the rest of the world.
In the case of today’s Gospel reading when Jesus said to the woman, “it is not fitting for me to give the gifts to the house dogs, the gifts that belong to the children or to those who belong.” It is not fitting for Me to give to the house dogs. She understood exactly what Jesus was saying. It was not because it wasn’t hard language. In the Church tradition, house dogs were referred to people who were strangers, who didn’t belong. And she responded to Jesus by saying, “Yes, but even the house dogs can enjoy the scraps.” So she was ready to settle for the scraps that fell from the Master’s table. God is giving us more than scraps today, more than scraps. One privilege we have, brothers, as Christians today, one privilege we have for being given the opportunity to come to this holy place, to be filled with the Spirit of God, but with the design and the desire to go out and spread that news of God’s salvation, so that everyone we meet, everyone who encounters us subsequently, will come to a deeper realization of who God is. That God will no longer have difficulty communicating to His people His designs and His salvation by our lives. By your life witness you will be such a testimony that others will be drawn to God and more people will come to Medjugorje. More people will come from your country to see the experiences that you had. And so, brothers, we can pray today that as God wishes that the whole world will be saved, that we see ourselves as instruments of that salvation, each one of us. God is calling each one of us, especially by means to be His witnesses. So, we did not come here for selfish reasons, just to be filled, or to solve our problems. In so far as we have an outward-looking disposition, what we receive simply multiplies. We live the words of St. James, the very last verse of his book. He says, “If you win a soul for the Lord, you won’t lose yours.” “If you win a soul for the Lord, you won’t lose yours.”