20 August 201720 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
20 Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
A Cycle - Matthew 15:21-29

The 17th century Cromwell was painted by a fawning court artist. The flattering portrait didn't do anything for Cromwell. He snarled, "Paint me - warts and all." What surety do we have that the Evangelists have written the authentic picture of Christ? Perhaps the Gospels are but puff pieces - the type politicians write about themselves. The proof the Evangelists have given us the real article is found in today's Gospel. Jesus is on the run from the bad guys. He abandons Palestine and flees north into today's Lebanon. Why? He was scared stiff. Does this sound like a puff biography? We are getting a picture of Christ - warts and all. Jesus planned to hide out in this foreign country.

He was an illegal alien with no visa. When the Jewish cops had forgotten about Him, He would furtively return to Palestine like people sneaking into the USA today. But His fame as a wonder worker had preceded Him. A woman with a sick child had picked Him off. Hysterically she begged for a cure. His cover had been blown. The apostles begged Jesus to get rid of her. They wanted her to fly away on a broom. As far as the twelve were concerned, she was bad news on several counts. She was a Canaanite and so an arch enemy of the Jews for centuries. Her loud pleas would attract the cops and media and cause all them to spend time in a foreign jail. In perhaps the toughest language used by Jesus in the Gospels, He tells the woman His mission is to the Jews. It cannot be shared with dogs which is how Jews regarded Canaanites.

Are you still thinking that Matthew wrote a Hallmark card puff piece for his readers? This is Christ - warts and all. The mother was not frightened by the put-down of this wonder man. She proves herself a match for His tongue. She had no love for this Jew, but she believed He could deliver. She had a sick youngster and was willing to swallow insults. She was going for the gold - the cure of her daughter. The 17th century Rembrandt leaves us a moving drawing of the scene. She proves to be one of the most remarkable people in the Gospels. She digs in, takes Jesus on, and proves herself to be the wordsmith He is and even better. She hits Him right between the eyes with her famous reply, "Lord, even dogs get the crumbs that fall from their owner's table." But she doesn't want crumbs. She wants the whole loaf - her child's cure. His irritability and even bad manners indicate Jesus was strung out. His nerves must have been as tight as an overstretched rubber band. The heat was 100 plus degrees.

This Canaanite was the first Gentile of record whom He had dealt so aggressively with. Still, confronted by this courageous woman and, unlike us, He does not hold on to His mad. He cools down. It is an admission of bad manners on His part. He honors the woman by learning from her. (Stephen Mitchell) Besides, Christ was charmed out of His sandals by her reply. He knew He had been whipped bad. She had bested Him at the word game of which He was allegedly the master. He may well have broken out into laughter at Himself and given her a high five. Score Canaanite woman 5 and Christ 0. Wit is still prized in the Middle East by both Jews and Arabs - the ability to match riddle with riddle, to cap one wise saying with another, to match insult with insult, and to turn raw insult into a compliment. (John McKenzie) Christ cured her child.

Also He salutes her faith. In Matthew's Gospel, she is the only person whose faith He calls great. She was also great for a second reason. She was the only one in any Gospel who had beaten Him in public debate. His conqueror was a Canaanite and a woman to boot in that very macho society. Is this not a picture of Christ - warts and all? Some may be tempted to say, "Well, only Matthew tells this story. The other Gospels are election-time biographies." That will not wash, for the identical story is told in Mark 7:24-30. Check it out. Like it or not, the Gospels tell it like it is. The Jesus you see in the Gospels is the one the Evangelists saw - warts and all. Matthew is saying to us today, "This Christ is the genuine article. Take Him or leave Him." The Gospels tell us more about the real Christ than the Vatican press tells us about the pope. 
Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
20 Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time: I Belong Here

Have you ever had a feeling that you really don't belong someplace? I certainly have. I remember when I first became involved in youth ministry. I was twenty-one years old and a newly professed brother with the Salesians of St. John Bosco. I was just getting used to people calling me Brother Joe. I received my first official ministry assignment. I was to teach CCD on Sundays to the sixth grade boys at Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Sparta, New Jersey. Piece of cake. What problems could I have with 11 and 12 year olds? The first class went well, but it really didn't last long. By the time the kids were assigned to the rooms there were just a few minutes for me to introduce myself. Little did I know that they were just casing me out. The second Sunday I showed up with a great filmstrip that had just come out. To you young people, back in the olden days a filmstrip was like Powerpoint, only with music and words. You would play a tape at the same time that you showed a slide. Then at the "bing" you would advance to the next slide. Well, I got to the parish a little early and ran into Sister Debra who was preparing to teach the sixth grade girls. When she saw that I had this particular filmstrip, she said, "I've was looking to show that to the girls. Would you mind if I brought them into your class so they could see it too?â?? "No problem, Sister. I was planning on starting it about twenty minutes into the class." "Great," she said, "you have the boys ready and I'll bring the girls in" Have the boys ready?

What was she talking about? A few minutes before the class started, she said again to me, "You get the boys ready, and I'll bring in the girls in twenty minutes." "Sure" I said. But I was completely clueless as to what she meant. Twenty minutes into the class, a little girl came in and said that sister wanted to know if the boys were ready for the girls. I was a bit irritated, after all, I was twenty-one and a Salesian. I knew all about kids. But I just said, "Tell sister to send them in" So these little girls came in carrying their chairs. And the boys started. They were hooting and howling and whistling. My face dropped. I was paralyzed. I had no idea what to do. And that's when Sister Debra came in. Now I didn't mention it, but Sister Debra was a very beautiful young lady. When she walked in, the smallest boy in the front row with the loudest voice in the world stood on his chair and yelled out, "Hey, Brother Joe, there's one for you!!â?? And I had the feeling that I really didn't belong there. Sadly, this story is 100% true. Actually, I did belong there.

I just had to learn a few things about youth ministry....and eleven year old boys. There are a lot of times that we feel we really don't belong somewhere. I remember a high school girl who accompanied us on the Life Teen Leadership Conference quite a number of years ago. The first night when we got together as a parish, the girl looked at the other Teens there and said, "I don't belong here. I'm not as good as these other kids" I took her aside and told her that Bart, our youth minister, and I chose her to be there and that I was sure she should be there. She responded, "You don't understand, Father. I'm not good like those other kids. I have a terrible reputation at school. And I earned it" I told her that the past was the past. There would be an opportunity for confession. And, especially, she did belong there.

She showed all the signs of being a strong leader in the faith. Sure enough, through the grace of God, she grew that week and from then on. By the time she got to college, she was the family's leader in the faith, as well as a leader in our youth group. Now, out of college, she is a young Catholic woman determined to live and spread the faith. The feeling of not belonging someplace was certainly forced on the woman in today's Gospel. She was a Canaanite, a gentile, a pagan. What was she doing seeking healing from this Jesus, whom the Jewish people were treating as their long sought Messiah? Jesus Himself seemed to emphasize this when He joined the sentiment of the crowd and said that He was only sent for the lost sheep of Israel. But the woman was determined.

Her daughter was gravely ill. She demanded an audience with Him. Her faith was further tested when He said that it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs, dogs being the Jewish way of referring to the gentiles. Her response that even the dogs eat the food that falls from the table showed that her faith in Him would not waiver. It was clear that she belonged there, before the Lord. No one could say that she didn't belong. She couldn't even say that about herself. None of us should ever feel that we don't belong coming before the Lord. We do belong here. We belong here because he has called us to be here. Of course we are not good enough to be in His Presence. Not on our own. But He makes us good enough. That is what Baptism does. And, if we squander the Grace of our Baptism, then Penance makes us good enough. Nor should any of us believe others who through their subtle actions send a message that we really should be excluded from His Presence. For example you might walk into church and see someone you know outside of the parish who gives you a look that says, "I didn't expect to see you here" Everyone in the Church belongs here. And there are billions of people outside of the Church who also belong here. This is the Catholic Church. The word Catholic means universal. All people from all lands and races belong in the Church.

The Catholic Church is not a white Church. The Catholic Church is not a black Church. The Catholic Church is not an Asian Church. The Catholic Church is not a Hispanic Church. The Catholic Church is not an American Church. The Catholic Church is not a European Church. The Catholic Church is the universal Church. All people belong here. Saints and sinners belong here. People who are living exemplary lives belong here. People who are seeking to live better lives belong here. Most of us, actually all of us, I would think, are in that second group. We don't go to Church because we are so holy. We go to Church because we are seeking holiness. No one could say that the girl on that retreat did not belong there because she had a terrible reputation well earned. She did belong there. She belonged there because she was seeking the Lord.

There are many people here in this Church, foremost myself, who come every week asking God to heal us. We are seeking to be sincere in our practice of the faith. We belong here. "Come, all you who are weary and find life burdensome,â?? the Lord said. He didn't exclude anyone. He said, all you who are weary. One of the most effective weapons the devil uses against us is convincing us that we have no right to the Grace of God. The devil wants us to give up on ourselves. The Lord tells us that he will never give up on us. We do not have the right to give up on ourselves. And so, we come before Him this Sunday and every Sunday. We come before Him with simple faith. Like the Canaanite woman, we ask Him for healing. And we trust Him. For His mercy and compassion are infinitely greater than our sins. We look at the image of our Lord on the cross. We meditate on what He has done for us. And in complete humility we say, "I belong here"
Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
20 Ordinary Time
Spiritual Warfare Week 9: The Ingathering
(August 20, 2017)

Message: Spiritual warfare is not individualistic. We are part of a multitude - a great ingathering. . We have good readings this Sunday for our all-parish Mass and picnic. They focus on the great "in-gathering." Let's start with St. Paul's letter to the Romans. He desires that his fellows Jews accept Jesus. He reminds them of their gifts and their call. And he states: "the gifts and call of God are irrevocable." For those of us who are not Jews by inheritance, we are like "wild olive branches" who have been grafted onto the Jewish tree. This has happened through Jesus. Jesus desires the great ingathering of both Jews and Gentiles. We see that in the Gospel.

When Jesus travels outside of Jewish territory a Canaanite woman asks him to minister to her daughter. Jesus insists on his ministry belongs to "the lost sheep...of Israel." So Israel, the Jewish people, have priority. But Jesus also knows the prophecies of ingathering not only for Jews but also foreigners. We have one of those prophecies in our first reading. Isaiah foresees a day when foreigners (non-Jews) would come to the Lord. Some of them would even become ministers to the Lord, bringing offerings and sacrifices. This privilege we can't achieve on our own - only through Jesus. That ingathering begins today when Jesus responds to the Canaanite woman.

At first negative. Jesus sometimes says "no" to our prayers. He has his reasons. The Canaanite woman, however, persists. Jesus finally says, "O woman, how great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish." This is a dramatic moment - a sign of the great ingathering. I hope that we can see our Mass today as part of that ingathering. Each person has arrived here by their own route. Yet we are together in this Valley. We each have gifts and a call. I'm not saying it will be smooth sailing. This summer we are focusing on spiritual warfare. Next week Jesus will speak about the "gates of the netherworld." In Spanish: "los poderes del infierno." The powers of hell. Those power are real and only in Jesus do we have a chance against them. As we see today, spiritual warfare is not individualistic. We are part of a movement, a multitude - a great ingathering. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey

20 Ordinary Time
20th Sunday of the Year,
Modern Lectionary 118

The timeliness of today's scripture readings is all the more striking given that they were not hastily arranged in the past couple of years when immigration and the presence of "foreigners" in the U.S. have been a lively political concern, but rather they have stood together as readings for nearly half a century since the Lectionary was revised in 1969. The issue of the rights of foreigners or migrants within a nation was a controversial one in biblical times and so it is no surprise that it is still controversial today. The first reading comes from the opening of what us often called "third Isaiah", representing the third major section of that lengthy prophetic book. In the light of the return from the Babylonian exile, the prophet rejoices in his own salvation and ability to freely worship the Lord at long last, and desires that this joy be shared by all who believe in the Lord. This may seem like a natural wish but it is actually an expression of a deep and mature understanding of the relationship between God and man, and Israel's place in that relationship. Speaking the word of the Lord Isaiah says: "The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord" I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples? (Isa 56:1, 7).

To feel the impact of these verses we must recall that the Temple in Jerusalem was not always considered a house of prayer for all nations, nor even for all Israelites. At times in the history of Israel those who were physically afflicted in various ways were not allowed into the Temple (see 2 Sam 5:8 and Matt 21:14), nor were foreigners admitted beyond the "outer court".

Women were not allowed full access to the Temple either but they could enter the outer court where the Temple treasury was located (see Mark 12:41-44).
With this picture in mind the power of Isaiah's words becomes clear: all peoples who truly sought the Lord and abided by his covenant could freely worship in the Temple, and more importantly could be counted among those redeemed by God. The gentile nations were thus grafted onto the ancient rootstock of Israel and the heritage of salvation that was first made known through Israel was opened to all who believed and remained faithful to the Lord. For his part the Psalmist affirms this when he cries out in today's responsorial: "O God, let all the nations praise you!? (Ps 67:2).

Saint Paul adds his voice to the chorus by reminding his followers that while the people of Israel had not all received Jesus as Lord, it was through them that the gates of redemption were opened to the world, and on account of this God would redeem them in his own good time and manner, for as we hear in the second reading "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable? (Rom 11:29). The Gospel provides a final note to this brief reflection on the possibility of salvation for people of all nations. There Jesus admires the faith of the Canaanite woman, who was not only a foreigner but was from a nation that was among Israel's bitterest traditional enemies. The Lord tested her sharply before commending her for her belief in him: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish? (Matt 15:28).

The Canaanite woman saw her daughter healed that day: may we ask our Lord to heal us of any trace of a selfish mind or a cold heart, and rejoice in the company of the Lord together with all his faithful ones friend and foreigner alike.
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
Classic Matthew 15: 21-28
Gospel Summary

While Jesus is in the Gentile region of Tyre and Siden, a Canaanite woman approaches and cries out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." Jesus' disciples ask him to send her away for she keeps crying out after them, "Lord, help me." Jesus replies with the popular saying that it is not right to take the food of the children (Israelites) and throw it to the dogs (Gentiles). The woman replies that even dogs eat scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Jesus then says to her, "O woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish." The woman's daughter was healed at that very moment. Life Implications At first glance one would not recognize the sayings of Jesus in this gospel passage as good news there is the allusion to his own suffering and death, as well as his statement about bringing division, not peace. People in bondage to any kind of slavery or oppression, however, would have no trouble understanding exactly what Jesus is talking about. They would know that what they were hearing was good news.

When someone like Martin Luther King appears in a situation where people are hopelessly caught in oppression, the immediate consequence is not peace, but division?even in households and families. An oppressive system does not fix itself of its own accord. It takes a strong person of compassion not merely to lament injustice, but to risk life itself to proclaim liberation from oppression and hope of a new way of living. The very presence of such a person provokes a crisis whereby everyone involved in the system must choose either actively to hope for the new reality or to resist its coming. Jesus understood that he had been sent to a fallen world in bondage a humanity hopelessly mired in false value-systems of covetousness, violence, and idolatry. This was not merely some local situation of economic oppression imposed by a selfish landowner.

Jesus was engaged in a cosmic struggle against the realm of Satan in order to restore God's kingdom to people long held in slavery to demonic powers. Paul, particularly in his Letter to the Romans, speaks of the universality of the bondage. All humanity lives under the power of sin. And even with the most well-intentioned effort, those in slavery?Jews and Gentiles alike?are not able to live according to God's will. Jesus symbolically shows that he has entered the realm of Satan with God's power to liberate humanity from bondage by casting out demons. He shows that people will be able to use their freedom to live in a new way by curing people paralyzed to inaction by illness. Jesus in his own life shows what it means to be completely free from the false value-systems of Satan's reign, and to live in submission to God's reign not as to a powerful king, but to a loving father.

As we hear the words of Jesus about the meaning of his life at our Eucharistic liturgy, we realize that they are living words spoken to us. Jesus means to provoke a crisis of decision in us even though it might disturb the peace and cause division. If we hear his words in faith, we will take a close look at the system of values whereby in practice we live our own lives. Though professing membership in the Church, am I still in bondage to the false value-systems of a fallen world? How do I define the meaning of my life? How do I define the meaning of success? Jesus, now Risen Lord, is present among us not only to provoke a crisis of decision, but to enable us to actualize the reality of God's reign in ourselves. In that reality, although it may cost us something, we too can enter situations of oppression with the compassion and healing power of Jesus. With God's grace, we too can sometimes be instruments of liberation and hope for people who are held in bondage. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.
Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
20 Ordinary Time
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The extract from St Matthew's

Gospel presented to us this Sunday seems to present us with a somewhat different aspect of Jesus' character than we have seen until now. He seems unusually brusque and dismissive of the Canaanite woman. She wants a demon cast out from her daughter and is remarkably persistent even resorting to shouting after Jesus and his companions in an effort to embarrass him into exorcising the girl. Jesus says that he is sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, implying that his miracles and healing are only for the Jews. Of course, we know that this is not so. We can think of many examples where Jesus worked miracles in the case of non-Jews. After all Jesus healed the Centurion's servant among lots of others. We know that Jesus was sent to save everyone; we know that he came to redeem every single human being not only the People of Israel. However, we sometimes get the impression from the Gospels that Jesus only widened his mission to include the Gentiles after the Jews rejected him.

But knowing that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he has knowledge of everything that has happened and everything that ever will happen, means we realise that from the very beginning he must have intended his work of salvation to be for the whole of humanity not just the Jewish people. This leaves us with the question of what was going on in this incident with the Canaanite woman. My suggestion is that Jesus was drawing her out. I think that by at first ignoring her, and then declaring that his mission was not directed at pagans like her but to the Jews, he was actually getting her to demonstrate the depth of her faith. She is remarkably persistent and she has a ready answer to Jesus objection that his mission is not directed at the pagans. She says that even the dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table.

It is this that tips the balance and from that moment her daughter was well again. So, my understanding is that Jesus is being a bit off hand with her in order to get her to express the depth of her faith. Of course, any mother will do whatever she needs to do to make her daughter well again. But by forcing her to express her belief in him Jesus demonstrates that faith is not the exclusive preserve of the Jews. We can think of numerous other examples of this strategy scattered through the Gospels. Yes, the Jews were the Chosen People but this means that the Messiah was to come from among their number not that they had a monopoly on faith. It certainly did not mean that salvation was only for them. We know that their idea of what the Messiah would be like and how he would achieve his victory was pretty wide of the mark.

Their idea of what was to happen was framed by their own way of looking at the world and how it was organised. In fact, their thinking about the Messiah was really only another way of strengthening the power of the elite groups who were in control of the nation. The conclusion we are being invited to draw from this story of the Canaanite woman is that salvation is meant for everyone. In our society today, when secularism is in the ascendancy and the great majority of people have no use for organised religion, it is hard for us to know how to make this truth more widely known. We have been entrusted with a message of great importance for the world; it is our task to make Christ known and to help people to see that he has made salvation possible for the whole human race. The difficulty we face today is that most people do not even recognise that there is any necessity for salvation. While many people living around us live by an excellent moral code most of them do not realise that this has its origins in the Christian way of looking at the world.

Many of us find it even difficult to pass on the truths of the faith to our own children. Young people today are being constantly bombarded by all kinds of views pushed at them by the media and our ideas about God and man's place in relation to him ends up being pushed to the side-lines. What I think we have to try and convey is that our faith in God and all that comes with it is not part of a folk-tale that we have mistaken for a set of truths. We want other people to understand that our particular beliefs are part of a great stream of thought and culture that stems ultimately from God himself. We want them to appreciate that our faith has been tried and tested and not found wanting by many of the greatest thinkers in history. What we believe is no fairy story but rather a set of truths that are fundamental to any right-thinking view of man's place in the world.

Actually, according to us, it is the world-view peddled by the mass media that is fanciful. We know that there is no true fulfilment to be found in a purely materialistic view of the world. We know that much of what is presented to us as an enlightened modern way of looking at things is in fact deeply flawed and is more likely to lead to the destruction of mankind rather than his fulfilment. In the face of all this we need the persistence of the Canaanite woman. We need to continue to proclaim our faith, we ought to be constantly explaining to other people the profound understanding of the world and man's role in it that is part and parcel of our faith.

We should talk to people about sin and its destructive power and explain to them how we can overcome it. Maybe doing these things won't win us many friends, but at least no one will be able to say that we were gifted the secret of everlasting life and kept it to ourselves. Let that Canaanite woman be our example and let us be quick with our arguments and have answers ready for those who dismiss our faith and belittle our beliefs. Christ was a bit off-hand with that woman as a way of getting her to express her faith. Let us be like her and be fearless in explaining to others those things that bring true meaning and purpose to our lives.
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