Sunday Homily, August 16, 2020

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
By Fr. Claude Perera, OMI


Readings:

First Reading: Isaiah 56:1,6-7
Salvation Is for All.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3,5 6,8
Corporate Act of Thanksgiving of the Whole Humanity for the Gift of Salvation                                                                         

Second Reading: Romans 11:13-15,29-32
God’s Irrevocable Grace to Israel and Gentiles as well.

Gospel Reading: Matthew 15:21-28
Healing of the Daughter of the Canaanite Woman Because of Her Persistent Faith.

Homily

In last Sunday’s gospel we read the miracle of Jesus walking on water. In the Gospel of Matthew that episode was followed by Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Son of God. What came next was Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees about Jewish purity laws where he relativized their absolutes saying that what makes one unclean are things that come out of an unclean heart. The debate heightens with Jesus’ exchange with the Canaanite woman. (Canaan was un umbrella term to designate the original inhabitants of Palestine before the Hebrews settled in there. Having occupied the land of the Canaanites, Hebrews pushed them to the outskirts of Palestine. The woman in today’s gospel story was more precisely a Syro-Phoenician woman. She was from a City State under the Roman Rule in the regions of Syria and Phoenicia which is today geographically Lebanon). When the foreign woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter, a demoniac, at first Jesus ignored her. Then Matthean Jesus emphasized on the nature of salvation which was primarily for the Jews. But she would not listen. The disciples wanted to get rid her because she was a nuisance. But finally, Jesus gave in because of her persistent profound faith in Jesus.

Jesus’ initial attitude to this woman seems shocking and unkind. But still, we are in Matthew’s Gospel, of which the audience was primarily Jewish. They were Jewish Christians who were going through many harassments at the hands of their own fellow Jews as well as hosts of gentiles led by cruel Romans. Despite these hostilities, the compassion of Jesus who is the merciful face of the Father is not forgotten by Matthew. Matthew is anticipating the later openness of the Christian charity and mission to the gentile the world promoted by Paul and his companions. The life situation of the Matthean community reflected in this episode is the Early Christian Community’s struggle to understand how God’s election of Israel was consistent with Israel’s rejection of Jesus, and on the other hand, the acceptance of Jesus by the gentile world.

Just as Matthean Jesus is presented as being surprised by the faith of the gentile Canaanite woman, so too were also the first Christians to witness that the Gentiles were offered the same gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. In today’s second reading, the Apostle Paul writing to the Romans, was reiterating this same gift of salvation offered to the gentiles. Initially, salvation was meant to be for Jews only. But as the plan of salvation began to unfold, salvation overflowed and began to be offered to the gentiles also. Otherwise, God’s mercy and grace would have become a restricted and domestic one. God cannot be domesticated and imprisoned in petty man-made categories. He is God and Father of all creatures. His mercy extends to all of them. The inclusion of gentiles in God’s plan of salvation was no innovation of the NT. The prophets prepared the people of God for this teaching already in the OT. That is what you heard in the first reading of today taken from Deutero-Isaiah. There the prophet foresees centralized worship in Jerusalem for all people in the world. He shows how the whole humanity will come to worship one and same God.

All this presupposes an unshakable faith in God’s immense mercy. A miniature of that kind of faith was instanced in the case of the Canaanite woman who expresses an affirmation of and confidence in God’s abundant mercy. Who are we to prevent him from having mercy on his creatures? On the contrary, we should be happy that God shows pity on all who sincerely seek Him. God is not a brand to be sold or bought. He must be promoted and made available to all who need him sincerely, by those who have already experienced His mercy. That is the way we show gratefulness for the free gift of salvation that we ourselves have enjoyed. Often, we try to possess even God and his grace and not allow others to enjoy the same. There is no end to our being possessive. How beautiful it is if everyone who believes in God, savours His goodness, and praise His name? Afterall, we are all His children. Labels evoke possessiveness. God cannot be possessed by a particular brand of people. But the only brand that can approach Him is those with profound faith. Faith works miracles. With faith many impossible things become possible. God knows our needs. If those needs be beneficial to our salvation, he will certainly grant them to us.   

Happy Sunday! Bon Dimanche! Buona Domenica! Schönen Sonntag! Gelukkige Zondag! Szczęśliwej Niedzieli! Sretna Nedjelja!

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