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Homily for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Isaiah 56:1.6-7: Romans 11:13-15,29-32: Matthew 15:21-28

Saint John Baptist de la Salle/Saint Stephen August 20, 2023

The events of these past few weeks have left me troubled. The four indictments of a former president, drive-by shootings in Greensboro, threats of violence to judges and law enforcement officials, gatherings of White Supremacists in Boston, clearly show our country is being shaken by divisions and conflicts. People simply have a difficult time just trying to get along. We do not have to look beyond our own home or town. All conflicts are driven, not just by political disagreements but by religious intolerance. There are hate-filled graffiti written on the walls of a mosque, the bombing of a synagogue, attacks on Christians, threats, insults, and harassment. What we hear in today's Scripture is very similar to what is happening in our world of 2023. Over and over the Scriptures look beyond division and mistrust, as they reveal a world where the Kingdom of God is big enough to welcome everyone. Wherever hatred and prejudice come from, they certainly don’t come from God.

Well, we are invited to expose such myths and correct their false and exaggerated claims. In today's Gospel, a woman, a woman from another country, points out that what the Jewish people believed was not true. You and I owe the fact that we are Christians today, because of the heroic efforts of this unnamed woman. She broke down the wall of division and intolerance between Jews and Gentiles. We need to let this woman speak to us in today's Mass. We need to ask her how to rid ourselves of the things that create division among God’s children, the people that God has loved into being. What she will teach us, is that our vocation is to make God's Kingdom come. Will she teach us to follow the Gospel of Jesus and not the foolishness of political leaders? However, someone must speak out. She does not listen to the disciples of Jesus who want to send her away. Her courage and her refusal to take no for an answer finally pays off.

The second thing we can learn from this woman, is what the Civil Rights Movement calls “keep your eyes on the prize.” Even when Jesus quotes Scripture to her, a part of Scripture that many people have misunderstood, she does not get upset. Instead, she kept her eyes on the goal of her mission, which is to show that even non-Jews are entitled to God’s blessings from the Christ. This woman challenged Jesus to be all that he claimed to be. If Jesus was the Christ, if Jesus really was the one that God had sent to save God’s people then he better start acting like it. This woman knew that if she gave Jesus a piece of her mind at that moment, that would jeopardize her cause and she might lose what she came for. But with focus, and with her eyes on the prize, she made it. She is a model of non-violence, and she made it clear that she understood what God had promised to all people. And so, Jesus said, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish,” and the woman got what she wanted.

The message of this one woman to every one of us today is this: “Be not afraid.” Be not afraid to challenge prejudice and intolerance, even in high places, even in religious high places. Be not afraid to speak the truth and correct the errors of people’s beliefs. Be not afraid to proclaim Jesus as the Christ, the one God sent to save the world. Be not afraid to be used by God, to bring justice and healing to all of God’s disadvantaged daughters and sons, all over the world. Be not afraid to put your trust in Jesus. As Isaiah simply says, "Observe what is right and do what is just."

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