A HOMILY FOR THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “A” – 8/20/17 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you this day!
The good Jewish people of Jesus’ time believed that anyone who was not Jewish, was a lesser human being. And that they could never be saved. Associating with Gentiles was forbidden. It was against the Jewish law to do business with the Gentiles, or even to pass through their towns. Time and time again, in His ministry, Jesus’ associations with all kinds of different Gentiles, ruffled the feathers of the Jewish leadership. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Samaritans weren’t good, in the eyes of good Jews. Or think of the woman at the well, who had had six husbands, that Jesus shouldn’t even had been talking to. Or think of the Roman centurion, whose servant was ill. Jesus broke down walls of prejudice and discrimination. Jesus’ usual openness to all, seems to be in stark contrast to the Jesus that we see in today’s Gospel. Perhaps, Jesus is using this encounter to teach His disciples, and to teach us, that our differences, don’t really matter to God.
And of course, I think that all of us would like to think that the differences between us, from just a few generations ago, are now a part of our past. Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim. Black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Indian, or some combination. Men or Women. Educated or uneducated. Rich or poor. Democrat or Republican. Left handed or right handed. With hair or without hair. Those who like to sing and those who don’t like to sing. Boxers or briefs. We have learned, that despite our differences, we are all human beings, and we are all God’s children, and all of us, ALL OF US, are invited to Jesus’s Kingdom! This past week has been a tough week. The events last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, and their subsequent fallout, have been a stark reminder that for some, there are still very strong divisions. And we still have a lot of work to do, to live together in peace.
Today’s Gospel from St. Matthew comes, then, at a perfect time. Today Jesus rewards the Canaanite woman for her great faith, by healing her daughter. For a moment there, it seems as if Jesus is agreeing with the Pharisees with whom He had been debating just a little while earlier, in this same chapter. Jesus refers to the Gentiles as “dogs”, which two-thousand years ago in Jewish culture, would have been a common slur for the Canaanites, used by everyone from the Pharisees on down. Jesus does this only to test her faith. And standing her ground, the woman shows that she believes and that even she – a non-Jew, a Canaanite, a Gentile – is intended to share in the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Jesus uses this encounter to pre-figure the rejection of the Kingdom, by so many of the Jews, and the giving of the Kingdom and the Good News, to others who would accept it. The Gentiles get the good stuff, while those who were supposed to receive it, get nothing.
The Prophet Isaiah had predicted this very thing nine centuries earlier! This is what we are hearing about in our first reading today. Isaiah tells us that the coming of the Messiah would bring about the hope of salvation for ALL people, “even foreigners who join themselves to the Lord”.
And as the Church struggled to make this happen in the First-Century, after Christ’s Ascension, who becomes the unlikely Apostle to the Gentiles? St. Paul, or Saul of Tarsus! Remember, Saul, before his conversion, was a leading Pharisee in the Jewish faith. Saul would have been the first one to have absolutely nothing to do with the Gentiles. He would have considered the Gentiles to be “unclean”, and would have condemned them. After his conversion, and now as an Apostle, Paul seeks the conversion of the Gentiles. Israel’s rejection of Jesus becomes the thing that opens the door of the Gospel to the Gentiles! And St. Paul becomes the strongest voice for their inclusion in the Church.
This Gospel passage points out very well that the good Jewish people of Jesus’ day, spent way too much time highlighting the differences among people and emphasizing the things that divided them. If we’re honest, we know that we can all do the same today. Seeing things with the fresh perspective of our faith, we are called today to see that all are called to faith, to be children of God. Even though we may all be sinners, and even though there are many differences between us, we can all be saved. Jesus died on that Cross for all of us, not just some. Let us do our best then, to see one another with the eyes of faith, and to see other who are different from us, as Jesus sees them! That’s how God’s love is going to change the world!
+ May God bless us as we strive to live in peace, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us!!!