Universal Salvation and Universal (Catholic) Church

by Edmond Lo
Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

2 Kings 5:14-17

2 Timothy 2:8-13

Luke 17:11-19

This Sunday’s Mass readings begin with a foreigner, Naaman the Syrian, acclaiming the God of Israel; and conclude with another foreigner, a Samaritan, prostrating himself before Jesus in thankfulness and adoration. Both of them had been cured of leprosy miraculously.

“Where are the other nine? Has none but this foreigner returned to give thanks to God?” (Lk 17:17-18). This question is asked not so much because the answer is wanting but because it has already been given.

Given where and when? How about the Trito-Isaiah, believed to be written in the 6th C:

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)

The Psalmist is no foreigner to the concept of universality (God’s salvation is for all peoples) either:

From Babylon and Egypt I count those who acknowledge the LORD.
Philistia, Ethiopia, Tyre, of them it can be said: "This one was born there."
But of Zion it must be said: "They all were born here." (Ps. 87:4-5)

Like a skillful builder who builds his house carefully and methodically, God’s building plan begins with Israel, the foundation of the House of God if you will, and ends in good time with the inclusion of all peoples. This is why God’s House is called the “Catholic Church”, a term already in use in as early as the 2nd C by St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 108 A.D.) “Catholic” means universal, for all peoples. With the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, and the completion of the economy of salvation, the time has come for the completion of the house of the Lord – the Catholic Church in which “the Gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and co-partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6).

What does the builder do when the house is ready for occupancy? Hand over the keys to the rightful occupants. Jesus did exactly that when he gave Peter “the keys to the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 16:19). As the Vicar (Prime Minister) of Christ, Peter and his successors have been given the sacred mission of overseeing the rightful occupants of the House of the Lord on earth – the Catholic Church faithful.