16Aug 16 August, 2020. 20th Sunday, Year A

16 August, 2020. 20th Sunday, Year A

1st Reading: : Isaiah 56:1. 6-7

The Lord will bring foreigners to worship in Jerusalem

Thus says the Lord: Have a care for justice, act with integrity, for soon my salvation will come and my integrity be manifest.

Foreigners who have attached themselves to Yahweh to serve him and to love his name and be his servants —
all who observe the sabbath, not profaning it, and cling to my covenant — these I will bring to my holy mountain.
I will make them joyful in my house of prayer.
Their holocausts and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar,
for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples.

Responsorial: Psalm 66:2-3, 5-6, 8

R./: O God, let all the nations praise you!

O God, be gracious and bless us
and let your face shed its light upon us.
So will your ways be known upon earth
and all nations learn your saving help. (R./)

Let the nations be glad and exult
for you rule the world with justice.
With fairness you rule the peoples,
you guide the nations on earth. (R./)

Let the peoples praise you, O God;
let all the peoples praise you.
May God still give us his blessing
till the ends of the earth revere him. (R./)

2nd Reading: Romans 11:13ff

Paul trusts that eventually his fellow-Jews also will come to Christ

Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I glorify my ministry in order to make my own people jealous, and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead! for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient so that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28

Jesus answers the prayer of a persistent woman and praises her faith

Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon. ” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us. ” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. ” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me. ” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs. ” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. ” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish. ” And her daughter was healed instantly.


Is God’s welcome only for the few?

1. Not a church of pigeonholes: For office filing purposes pigeonholes are splendid. Bureaucrats love tidy compartments where accounts, applications, drafts etc. can be systematically stored — everything in its proper place. A good office motto might be: No surprises and no disorder! There’s a temptation to think of God’s grace as parcelled out in a similarly neat, orderly way — as something reserved for the God-fearing elect, the People of God. Historically, many of our Jewish forebears adopted this view, and they (and we!) require the universalist message of Isaiah: God wants a house of prayer open to all the nations. Christians need to remember it too: God wills ALL human beings to be saved; in the Father’s house there are many mansions.

2. Blessings of Loss: Our heavenly Father draws people towards Himself in strange, unpredictable ways. Just as in a family the misfortune of one member can serve to unite the others in a new, protective loyalty; or as in business the failure of one concern can direct energy into a new, more productive line.. so the rejection of Our Saviour by the Jews resulted in His more rapid acceptance throughout the Gentile world. It’s an ill wind blows good to nobody! Even the lapses and sins of mankind can be turned to good account, says Paul in a profound but difficult section of his letter to the Romans: “God has imprisoned all men in disobedience only to show mercy on all.” Our own past sins will not bar us from Christ-they only show us how much we need him (“To seek and save what was lost.”)

3. Crumbs in the Kitchen: Why does Jesus want to limit himself to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel?” Was he not concerned for people of other nations, like that foreign woman with the loud voice, who pleaded for his help? She didn’t give up; that’s the first thing. Second, she found the perfect answer: “Even the pups get the crumbs that fall from the master’s table!” Thirdly, her prayer was answered, and her faith warmly praised. But still, what do we make of the initial remark? A popular idiom in Israel, used by Jesus to convey that his primary mission was the conversion of his own Jewish people? Historically, that was his way; first to revive the Chosen People, so that these in turn would furnish a “house of prayer for all nations.” However, even during his lifetime He was willing to receive those pagans who came to him; and he predicted that in future “many will come from East and West, and will sit down at table in the Kingdom of God.” Notice too the world-wide mission of the disciples, after the Resurrection (Mat. 28:18.)

4. Expanding circles: That’s how Christian faith should spread, like the rippling circles expanding on the surface when a stone drops into a still pond. First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles. Always handed on by direct contact, the sharing of trust, the witness of peaceful conviction, the bearing of one another’s burdens. But will our path of faith be smooth? Or will there be setbacks and obstacles, objections from people more clever than ourselves, a contrary wind of current opinion hostile to religious belief? In such circumstances, the Canaanite woman offers inspiration, with her iron resolve coupled with good humour and ready wit.


5 Responses

  1. Thara Benedicta

    Homily for August – 16 – 2020

    Key message:
    Pursue in love for Jesus.

    Takeaway from first reading:

    God is not God only for a small group of people. He is God for all. He does not show discrimination among the people.
    God says that He will make joyful all those who love Him, irrespective of caste, creed, financial or educational status. Because none of these is of a little concern for God. What looks big in His eyes is only our love for Him.

    Takeaway from second reading:

    Apostle Paul served God by preaching the Good News to Gentiles. Though good news was preached initially to the Jews, Gentiles became closer to God than Jews.

    In today’s world, people who have accepted Jesus newly, are enjoying their close walk with Jesus. As they found a new treasure, they are abounding with joy. Few people who are born in Christian faith, do not realize what they have. It is like the host starving, when the guests are enjoying a good meal.

    Are we continuously focusing to have an intimate walk with Jesus?

    Takeaway from Gospel reading:

    In today’s Gospel, Jesus tests faith of the gentile woman and proclaims that God does not discriminate people.
    Here we see that the disciples are asking Jesus to send off the lady as she is crying. In all the other incidents, the disciples will be wondering or expecting that Jesus will do a miracle. But seeing her that she is a gentile, the disciples thought that Jesus will not perform a miracle. They insisted Jesus to send her away, rather than heeding to her request.
    Now Jesus brings out the hiding faith of the gentile woman in front of the crowd.

    He revealed the truth to His disciples –
    1. ‘God blesses anyone (Gentile/Jew), only faith in Him is required.’
    2. ‘Faith of a gentile can be stronger than faith of a Jew’.

    Increasing love for God:

    1. In Morning Prayer, ask God to increase your love for Him. God will work out a plan for you. You will see it happening.

    2. Often think about the truths of our loving Father

    a. God is your loving Father. He never leaves you or abandons you.
    b. Even if your mother forgets you, He will not forget you.
    c. Greater than the sand of the sea is His thoughts for you. His plans are always to prosper you.
    d. Jesus came to earth just for you. He suffered a cruel death on the cross to purchase place for you in heaven.
    e. God’s loving heart cannot digest to leave you alone in this world. Hence He came as a caring comforter and lives with you till the end of the world.

    3. Almighty God gave His own life for you. You are precious for Him than His own life.

    Life without loving God is worth nothing.

  2. Pádraig McCarthy

    Today’s reading from Matthew 15 seems to me to be one of the most remarkable stories of Jesus.
    In a world where gods were considered to be of a particular place or people rather than universal, the first reading from Isaiah 56 reminds us that there were advance signs that the God who had chosen the Jews was not restricted to them, but was a God of blessing for all peoples.
    Now Jesus, after a dispute with the scribes and Pharisees, is approached by a Canaanite woman. Whatever the reason, this is extraordinary, that a woman would approach a man in public like this. That Jesus responds at all is also extraordinary. (There’s an echo here of Jesus approaching the woman at a well in Samaria in John 4.) In Matthew 8, Jesus was approached by a Roman centurion with a similar request; but, although a non-Jew, this was a man, and a man in a position of authority. Jesus was amazed: “I haven’t found such faith even in Israel!”
    But in our reading today, although in great need like the centurion, she is a person of no standing whatever. To ask for help should have been the responsibility of her husband, if she had one. In addition, she is a Canaanite, an ancestral enemy of the Jewish people. And she is a pagan. She is asking for God’s mercy for a female Canaanite child. Obviously the best course of action is to act as if she is not there at all.
    Jesus expresses the traditional position: his mission is to the lost sheep of Israel. It seems he is intrigued that the woman approaches him at all. The fact that she addresses him as “Lord” (three times in this story!), and even as “son of David,” is even more curious. Surely she must know that what she is doing is socially unacceptable and forbidden? She should know better. His lack of response is what any good Jew would do. When she knelt at his feet he could not ignore her any longer, he responded as a pagan woman would have expected.
    But she changed Jesus. She saw deeper, even if she might not have been able to express the theological principle. He learned from her – not an abstract lesson, but he learned something about himself. Through this nobody, God spoke to Jesus and enlarged his understanding. Like Mary at Cana, Jesus here realises that the universal mission is not just for the end of Matthew’s gospel: “Go to all nations …” but that it begins now. The situation, like at Cana, requires immediate response.
    And Jesus responds: “Woman, you have great faith!” The word “woman” here is not derogatory or paternalistic, but with clearly great respect; and like with Mary at Cana and at the cross in John’ gospel when Jesus addresses her, certainly with affection. This English translation leaves out the Greek word before “woman”, perhaps because it seems redundant, but it seems to me to carry extra meaning. It’s the word “O” as we might say in addressing another person, which we don’t usually use in English. Here, it’s as if someone addressed me, saying not, “O Pádraig”, but as if saying, “O! Pádraig!”
    In our reading, it’s as if Jesus says to the woman, “Wow! Lady, your faith is awesome!” How could she have drawn this out of Jesus?
    We don’t know what the woman had known of Jesus beforehand, but it’s clearly not her faith is doctrine he taught; it’s faith in him as a person. What she sees in Jesus now becomes something which changes Jesus and his understanding of the mission God calls him to. As perhaps we too can experience change through the faith and love of another person for us – usually someone we know. We don’t expect it from a stranger.
    We, the Body of Christ in our world today, need to be as sensitive and open to what even the most unexpected and unlikely and “nobody” person may have to reveal to us what God is calling us to. Even if they are regarded as dogs in the house or in the street.
    So we have the opening line of Isaiah today: “Have a care for justice; act with integrity.” And we have Paul in Romans 15: Gentiles and Jews are all equally the recipients of God’s love and compassion. Whether in Rome 2000 years ago or anywhere in our world today, In Jesus there is no discrimination between Gentile and Jew, nor between slave and free, no r between male and female. In Jesus we are one. This is our mission: to live this, in society and in our worshipping congregations.

  3. Joe O'Leary

    Pádraig, as always it’s interesting to compare Matthew with his source, Mark. Mark has Jesus lying low in a house in the region of Tyre. The woman hears of him and seeks him out, entering the house and falling at his feet. No crying out, no intervention of the disciples. The entire transaction occurs privately between Jesus and the woman,and she calls him “Kyrie” (best translated as “Sir” in the Markan story) only once, with no “Son of David.” In Mark she’s a Gentile (Hellenis) and a Phoenician of Syria, whereas Matthew makes her a Canaanite. In Mark Jesus says “for this saying” (about the dogs eating the crumbs) your daughter is healed, rather than the less colourful “great is your faith” of Matthew. Stepping from Matthew’s effective but conventional orchestration and dramatization to Mark’s quieter and economical account one feels one is coming closer to the actual character of Jesus. The late Seán Freyne spoke briefly to my students in Japan once, in a class on Luke as literature, and I asked which Gospel he regarded most highly as literature? “Oh, Mark, definitely!” was his answer. He thought Matthew a bit “wooden.”

  4. Pádraig McCarthy

    Joe #3:
    Thanks, Joe, for pointing to Mark’s version. The varied accounts in the evangelists are interesting. Mark seems often to be urgently hurrying on with the storytelling. He uses the word “immediately” (euthus) 19 times,compared to Matthew 7 times. It was a particularly inspired decision of the early church to have not one, but four accounts, not always compatible, but conveying that no one account (nor even four) can adequately convey the richness and mystery of Jesus. Similarly you and I would have differing, and hopefully complementary, ways of communicating the gospel in our own ways. In just dealing with Matthew today there was already more than enough material for a homily which might paint a picture to give background to Matthew’s account. In the piece above I didn’t even get to talk about why, at the time Matthew was being put into writing, it was relevant to the communities of Christians who would hear the story and how they might have related it to their situations.

  5. Joe O'Leary

    Pádraig, I could not agree more. Each phase of tradition has its own intrinsic merit. Luke’s Gospel is my favourite, and it was a good choice of the Dublin archdiocese to distribute it to the faithful (but in a somewhat stained glass format that undercut the aim).

    Seán MacRéamoinn (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Se%C3%A1n_Mac_R%C3%A9amoinn) deliciously said: “I’m like the Irish census, broken down by Age, Sex, and Religion.” I’m broken down by muggy August heat, Corona caution, and habits of procrastination. I find the best scriptural medicine in the Psalms. Scholars can reconstruct the situations in which all these texts were composed, but they have a force that is universal, going far beyond those situations, even beyond the frontiers of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

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