Fr. Rick’s Homily: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time


Is 56:1, 6-7; Ps 67:2-3, 5,-8; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28

About today’s gospel Bishop Robert Barron states in his commentary in the Word on Fire Bible: ‘Delighted not only by her cleverness and pluck but by the depth of her faith, Jesus says, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”  Yes, the table of grace was set for the children of Israel but the food from that table was not meant for Israelites alone, but for all those who would come to that table, by hook or by crook.  Israel was chosen yes – but for the sake of the world.’

We’ll go back to this…

There is a rather familiar theme here, where an outsider, in this case a Canaanite woman, is demonstrating an extraordinary faith.  We see this theme in the Old and New Testaments which are always a reminder that God wants to save everyone and He is revealing Himself to everyone.  Mysteriously, some respond, by grace, and most do not.  That’s the mysterious part.

Less mysterious, is the also common phenomenon of people crying out in the most desperate circumstances.  In this case today the woman’s daughter is tormented by a demon.  When the stakes are high enough and when the pain is strong enough, we are open to God’s power and mercy like never before.  And sometimes we even insist on a dramatic intervention by God.

Jesus responds to the Canaanite woman in seemingly the most UNJesus-like way.  Curiously this would have likely been a typical expression used by a Jewish person to describe a Canaanite, as a DOG.  Those of us who have never been caught up in a centuries-long tribal war, can hardly imagine the vitriol and disgust warring tribes have shown each other over the centuries – in all parts of the world.  In such an environment, with such fear and hatred of one’s neighbor, the allegiance to one’s own people or tribe, would have been fierce.  Added to that, Jesus says He was sent by the Father in Heaven to go first to the Israelites, the Chosen People – that they may have every possible opportunity to be saved.  They have been trying to be faithful for almost 2000 years at the point of this gospel and what a tragedy it would be if they did not recognize the Messiah who came to save them.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans in today’s second reading continues to illustrate some of his inner torment in trying to convert his own people, Jews in Rome.  Paul will have limited success with his Jewish kin and would eventually be referred to as “the Apostle to the Gentiles”, the NON Jews.

It was Paul’s own dramatic conversion that made him so certain of the saving power of Jesus.  It was this personal experience which enabled him to go through what must have been the excruciating process of extricating himself from his kinfolk.  His family and former tribe could not have saved him and he knows it.  He can now move on and out into the world knowing that he is guided by something real.  His life is experientially better, no mistake about it, and he wants everyone to be saved from the monotony and misery of meaningless lives.

And I think these are the two important points of the readings today.

He came to save everyone and … He does not want us to cling to those people or tribes who cannot provide the New Life for which we were intended from the very beginning.

Today’s readings should lead us to ask ourselves, “Are we living the lives of freedom and purpose that God has created us for?  Are we regularly sharing our story about how we were once living in despair, confusion or even low-grade chronic depression?  Or even torment?  There must have been something causing us to publicly say “Amen” to the Body of Christ and accept our roles as missionary disciples.  Or have we accepted our roles as missionary disciples?  Are we still tribal and clinging to those who are most familiar?

What might be holding us back from the fuller life and mission TO THE WORD that Jesus has given us?

In today’s bulletin (not in online version, unfortunately) is a simple illustration of how we receive and share God’s love and grace.  This determines everything else that happens in life.

 What most inhibits our ability to receive and reflect God’s love?  Sin, ignorance, fear, emotional or spiritual wounds, unresolved grief, other?

And then, recalling the out casted Canaanite woman,

When have you felt most alienated in your life? What was your particular ‘difference’ (real or perceived)?  How did you regain or reclaim your proper identity?

See bulletin today for retreat opportunities which address the need for healing and countering feelings of alienation.