God’s House Is for All Peoples

by Edmond Lo

The universality of God’s saving grace – that Jesus came to save both the Jews and the Gentiles alike - is a scriptural motif that I find truly captivating and convincing. God’s house is for all peoples – this is one of the most powerful themes of the Bible. It is one of the reasons why I am so convinced “that the books of Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to” communicate to all of us (Dei Verbum 11). In so many ways – and this teaching is one of them - the Bible has shown us that it is an extraordinary and unique book. It stands head and shoulders above all the books and writings of the world, from ancient to contemporary. People who truly understand it agree that no human hands or minds could possibly have been able to write or put together such a book. It is truly the living word of God, a word that invites and summons, a word that penetrates and changes the human heart, a word that is sacred and divine. Those who are always on the lookout for miracles, all they have to do is read the Bible.
On this 28th Sunday in ordinary time, the Church uses specifically three different readings from 2 Kings, 2 Timothy, and the Gospel of Luke to demonstrate the universality of God’s saving grace.
The story of Naaman, an esteemed army commander of the king of Aram whose leprosy was miraculously cured after following Prophet Elisha’s order to plunge seven times into the Jordan, can be seen as one of the dawning moments in the long history of the Bible when the first light of the universality of God’s saving grace is filtering through. Naaman, a Gentile, is asked to come to the land of Israel, where God’s chosen nation resides and God is present in a special way, to receive God’s healing grace.
To express in awe and wonder our amazement at God’s universal saving power, and our thankfulness for being its beneficiaries, we sing in unison in the Responsorial Psalm, “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power” (Ps. 98:2)!
Through the Gospel, we learn that God’s universal saving power is achieved through Christ, who sacrificed himself and died on the cross to redeem us from sin and save us from the sting of death (1 Cor 15:55). He did it all “so that [those who are chosen] too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, together with eternal glory” (2 Tim 2:10). This Good News is so powerful that St. Paul is “suffering, even to the point of chains, like a criminal” in order to proclaim it to the world (2 Tim 2:9). Are we prepared to follow St. Paul’s footsteps and do whatever it takes to spread the Gospel? Over two thousand years of Church history, there has never been a shortage of missionaries – both men and women - who are willing to answer to this call. Many of them are prepared to follow Jesus’ and St. Paul’s examples to sacrifice their bodies if that is God’s will.
If the motif of leprosy or uncleanliness is the first light filtering through the mist of dawn to usher in the theme of God’s universal saving grace in this Sunday’s first reading, the Lukan story of Jesus meeting and healing ten lepers as “he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee” on his way to Jerusalem is the midday sun that brings forth the full splendor of this scriptural teaching (Lk 17:11). In the foreign land between Samaria and Galilee, at least one of the 10 lepers that Jesus heals is an outsider to the people of Israel. The gift of faith is found in an unlikely people. The necessity of giving thanks to God, long overlooked by God’s chosen ones due to hardness of heart, is faithfully observed by a foreigner with outpouring love.
Just as prophet Isaiah has so accurately and unexpectedly predicted: “And 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 holocausts and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56:6-7). Amen!