There are 3 ideas I wish to explain to you today, one from each Reading.

There are actually 2 books of the "Prophet Isaiah". The first book - Chapters 1-39 - deals with Isaiah telling of coming doom to some 5 Kings of Judah who reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Judah, just before the fall of the larger Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. to the Assyrian king. Isaiah in this first book was trying to tell the Southern Kingdom of Judah that the LORD was going to destroy the Southern Kingdom as well. The Laws and the Covenant had been broken too often and the LORD had had enough. Some time around this Fall of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. Isaiah died.

Then the major Prophet Jeremiah took over in the last years of the Kingdom of Judah. He sharply criticized some 5 godless Kings who allowed worship of idols and did not care to see that the Covenant and the Laws and Worship were kept. Jeremiah does praise and encourage 2 of these last 7 Kings of Judah in trying to renew the Covenant and reinstate the Laws and the Worship as the LORD had commanded. But God had had enough with "His People. In 587 B.C. (136 years after the fall of the Northern Kingdom), the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzer had enough with the Jews, destroyed the City of Jerusalem, tore down the Temple, and exiled almost all of the Jews to Babylon.

Then the second book of Isaiah - Chapter 40 to the end - was written most probably by disciples of Isaiah about 135 years later while the Jews were in exile in Babylon. Instead of condemning them, these disciples of Isaiah, now in Isaiah's name, attempted to keep hope alive for a return to Jerusalem. However together with this encouragement, these disciples also told the Jews that because they had not lived up to the Covenant with the LORD nor kept His Laws, non-Jewish persons (called "foreigners" or "Gentiles") would share in their inheritance. They would become "God's People" as much as the Jews. And these "foreigners" and "Gentiles" ARE US.

Paul in his Letter to the Romans continues Isaiah's Prophecy that "foreigners" and "Gentiles" will be admitted to God's Chosen People. He tries to explain the relationship of Rome's Gentile Church with what happened to "his people" for Paul was a Jew sent to preach to the Gentiles. This Letter is very difficult to understand, yet it shows that the "foreigners" or "Gentiles" have now become the People of God through the New Covenant sealed in Christ's Blood, fulfilling our Reading from Isaiah 2 had forecast. So by the Grace of God "we who were not a people have become a People", the People of One God in Three Persons. For this History of Yahweh expanding His "People" we should each day be thankful.

Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Matthew has several different themes. But a most delightful story is that of the Canaanite woman whose daughter was "tormented by a demon". When the Chosen People entered Canaan, the Promised Land", they were to gradually force the inhabitants out for they worshiped false idols or baals. So we find this Canaanite woman living to the north of the Promised Land, in the region of Tyre and Sidon, both great seaports and Greek cities. Yet Jesus had withdrawn to that area outside of Jewish lands after a fight with the Pharisees probably around Nazareth.

Here comes this Canaanite woman (with whom the Jews were not to be with or even to talk to) right up to Jesus to ask for help with her daughter. Jesus at first doesn't even answer her, then says He "was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel". The woman keeps right on coming at Him and says "Lord, help me." Jesus tells her that one does not "take the food of the children (read "Jewish people") and throw it to the dogs", which is what He calls this woman and the Canaanites. But by calling herself a "dog", she says that "even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of the Masters". After all this pestering, Jesus praises her great Faith and answers her request.

In a book called Are You listening, God?, a young child asks why God hasn't granted what she asked for. In fact, the book asks why God hasn't granted what people have repeatedly asked for. If we are honest, we have often had the same feeling of God do nothing we ask for. God tests our Faith in Him, even to the point of us wondering if there is even a God. We believe that God will often not grant exactly what we ask for, but that God does hear our prayers and answers them in some way. At least that is what we believe when we have Faith both in the existence of God and in a "listening God". Sometimes we waver in this faith, because God doesn't seem to be listening to us..

We are not failures when at times we wonder if God exists or if He hears us. Think right now that our One God in Three Persons is here in this Church right now. Think in the mornings and throughout the day that we are living in God Who must be everywhere as a Spirit, not restricted by a material body. If we do not pray in such wonder, we can seem to be wandering in our Faith (something God admires because He created us as we are (imperfect beings) and loves us just as we are. So pray often during the day, even if it is just a very short time knowing that we are living and breathing and existing in Him. I just don't seem to be able to pray long prayers as I easily get distracted.

The story of the Canaanite woman shows that God doesn't mind if we pester Him and pester Him and pester Him some more. This is the sign of the "great Faith" of the Canaanite woman, a Faith we also can have if we keep the existence of God and of a "listening God" often in our minds, our hearts and our souls.

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