16 August 202020 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: One Church

Today’s readings are challenging. What is the Church trying to say to us by relating the dialogue that Jesus had with the Canaanite woman? And what in the world is St. Paul saying when he writes that because of the disobedience of the Jews the Gentiles were freed from their disobedience and, as a result, the Jews turned from their disobedience.

And what does all this have to do with us, people of 21st century America? 

It has everything to do with us. The readings are about inclusion, the call to One Church, to One Kingdom, a kingdom that refuses to exclude those seeking God.

The Canaanite woman wins healing for her daughter by showing Jesus her faith in Him. She even humbles herself when He said that the gifts of the Messiah, the food of the Jewish people, should not be shared with the dogs, the Gentiles. She responds that even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table, a common practice in meals where there are no utensils, just pieces of bread that are dipped into the stew pot, then dropped onto the floor rather than be re-dipped into the pot. It is clear from the Gospel that the faith of the gentiles, their openness to the wonders of God, has earned them a place at His table, the Banquet of Life.

Let’s tackle that second reading from Romans this way: suppose we go back to the days that St. Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans. Now let’s make believe that the left side of the Church represents the Hebrew people throughout the world and the right side represents the Gentiles, all the known people of Paul’s day, everyone from Britons to the people of Asia. Paul first preaches to the Hebrews, but they refuse to submit to Jesus Christ. They are disobedient to the call of their own prophets as well as the preaching of the evangelists. Because they are disobedient, closed to evangelization, Paul turns to the Gentiles, the right side of the church. Now these Gentiles had been going against their consciences. They had been performing all sorts of immoral acts that they knew were wrong. Paul alludes to this in the beginning of Romans, Romans 1:18-32. This was their disobedience.

Paul’s preaching called the gentiles from disobedience. They were transformed. They had been living, as Henry David Thoreau would later write, lives of silent desperation. But with Christianity, their lives had meaning, and purpose and fulfillment. They received eternal life. They lived in joy.

Now the Jewish people saw the joy of the gentile converts and said, “Wait, we want some of that. We want to be happy. We want to know that there is more to life than living for ourselves. We want the spiritual. We want God.” Therefore, the disobedience of the gentiles was transformed by the mercy of God to eternal happiness. This led to the Jews taking a step away from their disobedience to accepting the new way of life, the Christian way of life.

It would take time, but the Church came to a deep understanding that there is no right side or left side of the Church, nor are there people who are more worthy of the promise of Christ than others. The Church realized that it was universal, it was Catholic, the word that you know means universal. The Church is made up of people from various backgrounds, but all part of One Church. The Catholic Church is not just European, nor is it just American. The Catholic Church is also Asian, South American, African, Australian etc. All are part of the one Church called to accept the spiritual, called to eternal life. Think of the Church as a tapestry with various colors of threads all forming one picture, or as a mosaic with various different tiles all forming a great work of art.

Just as the gentiles and the Jews became blessings for each other, all the people of the Catholic Church are a blessing for each other.

I experienced the universality of the Church so clearly a long time ago when I was able to assist at the Pentecost Mass said by St. John Paul II. Yup, it was just me and the Pope, and about 60 other priests, 20 bishops and all sorts of cardinals. The Pope confirmed people from all over the world, and did so in 22 different languages. After Mass, I joined my parents in the Piazza San Pedro, the square in front of St. Peters, where thousands of people from all over the world gathered for the Pope’s Sunday blessing. Hearing all these different languages, seeing all these people from every continent, I was overwhelmed by the fact that this is who we are, this is what it means to be part of the universal Church. This is what it means to be Catholic. We are Asian. We are American. We are Australian. We are African. We are European. We are Catholic.

The world needs us to be Catholic. Our country needs us to be Catholic. In the First Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs, entitled The Church on the Path of Unity, we have the petition: In a world torn by strife may your people shine forth as a prophetic sign of unity and love. Recent events in our country are calling us more than ever to be this prophetic sign of unity amid our diversity. The world needs to see one body of people with diverse backgrounds all forming that tapestry, that mosaic, that is the People of God. The world and our country needs to experience in the Catholic Church the prophetic sign that diverse people can become one unified person. We have to be a sign for our country that our strength comes from the bond of love that does not accept any form of exclusion of any peoples. The world needs to witness our living out what we proclaim with our Creed: We are One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic. 

Who belongs here? Who belongs in the Church? All people belong here. All people are called to form Church. May our country see in the unity of the Catholic Church a prophetic sign that diverse people can unite in love.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
20 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
20 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
20 Ordinary Time

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