Opening Reflection: Holy Exchange:
Today’s first reading is from Isaiah, who addresses the first group of Israelites returning home after their 70-year captivity under Babylonian rule. Isaiah quotes God. Thus says the Lord: “Observe what is right, do what is just, for my salvation is coming, and my justice will be revealed” (Isaiah 56:1). God promises to accept those who have remained faithful to the covenant, adhere to the Law, and offer pure worship. God’s right and just actions, observed by the people, must be imitated as acts of justice to surrounding neighbors, nations, and others who need God’s loving mercy. This inclusion is for believers of all ages and times.
Our Duty and Salvation:
The words ‘right’ and ‘just’ are familiar to those who frequently attend Mass. Here is the dialogue that takes place between the Celebrant and the assembly at the Preface of the Eucharistic Prayer: Celebrant: “The Lord be with you.” People: “And with your spirit.” Celebrant: “Lift up your hearts” People: “We lift them up to the Lord.” Celebrant: “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God.” People: “It is right and just.” Celebrant: “It is truly right and just…etc. Notice the words of inclusion used by the Celebrant: “Father, we bring you these gifts…, we ask …, we offer…, we pray…
‘We’ signifies that all the baptized present at this Eucharistic celebration make this offering in union with Christ. And what is also important, we do not offer Christ alone; we offer ourselves, our lives, and our individual efforts to grow more like Christ, and as a community of believers, to spread God’s Word and to serve God’s people.
“Although our offering is imperfect, joined with the offering of Christ, it becomes perfect praise and thanksgiving to the Father” — The Eucharistic Prayer, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
In an article for Church Life Journal, Laura Camarata cites how the (right and just) exchange evokes a slightly different meaning when expressed in Spanish. “The congregation,” she explains, “proclaims the last line of this prayer as, ‘Es justo y necesario’ — it is just and necessary. Not only is it right, and just to give our praise and thanks to God, it is necessary. Not only is it something we should do, but it is also something we must do as “our duty and for our salvation.”
We don’t attend Sunday Liturgy because we should; rather, we must attend Sunday Mass (our obligation), approaching the Eucharistic sacrifice humbly. We must receive Christ’s self-gift in the Eucharist to be self-giving love to the world. Daily attendance at Mass further empowers us to be stronger in faith and live the good news more as a natural part of our existence-thankful for the sacrificial mystery in which we have taken part.
This necessity is echoed in the relationship between attending Mass and living our Catholic faith. We go to Mass because it is right and just. But also because giving praise and thanks to God is necessary to live a Christian life. Jesus leads by word and example. We receive His words and mimic His example. Jesus said, “Come” (draw closer to me, see how I live my life, spend time with me, attach yourself to me, learn from me), and “Go” (walk with me, say and do what I say and do, be my hands and feet and heart to others). “I have given you a model that as I have done for you, you should also do” (John 13: 12-15).
Praise = Blessing:
Today’s Psalm expresses belief that a sincere expression of prayer and praise is pleasing to God. “May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67: 4). “May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly (Psalm 67:4-5a). God responds to our praises with abundant blessings.
Paul corrects a mistaken notion that when we reject or disobey God, He withdraws His love, mercy, and grace. On the contrary, God pursues us more diligently when we sin to bring reconciliation. “Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more” (Romans 5:20). “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8: 28). Yes, all things. Even sin can work for good if its offense to God and others pierces our hearts to repentance.
Necessary for Salvation:
In today’s Gospel, Jesus first ignored the plea of a Canaanite woman, and when He did speak to her was rude — Why? Sometimes the most right and just thing we can do for someone is not to give them what they want but help them appreciate what they have and stir their faith. Although a pagan, the woman recognized Jesus as “Lord.” Her request is persistent, undismayed by obstacles, and humble (“Have mercy on me”) — an example for us to have the same qualities if we want to reach the heart of God.
Closing Comments and Questions:
When someone is in dire need (even if that person is an ‘outsider’), we must imitate Jesus’ breaking the rules in favor of what is right and just. Jesus’ action in today’s Gospel encouraged the early Church to bring the good news of redemption to the Gentiles. Our Lord will always do what is right and just — what new opportunities can you find to do the same?