August 16, 2020 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Andy Upah

Reading 1 IS 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them 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.

Responsorial Psalm PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2  ROM 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles. 
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race 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 call of God are irrevocable. 
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy. 
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Alleluia  MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 15:21-28

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon.” 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” 
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.” 
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.” 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish.” 
And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

Homily for Nativity on the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 8/16/2020

IS 56:1, 6-7; PS 67; ROM 11:13-15, 29-32; MT 15:21-28

Today’s gospel is difficult to make sense of when we try to read into what was going on in Jesus’ mind at the time.  

At Mundelein Seminary, we actually take a class called Christology which tries to determine this kind of thing, even though there isn’t necessarily a right answer, there’s no way to know for sure what Jesus knew or what He was thinking at that time.

For instance, a high Christology would say that Jesus knew He was God from the moment He was born and He could speak every language and do anything He wanted. 

Alternatively, a low Christology would say He didn’t know anything about His identity and had to learn it all as He went along, and all of His power was coming from God the Father.  Realistically, it’s more likely to be somewhere in the middle.

So here in this story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman, we hear Him have a weird interaction.  At first it doesn’t seem like He wants to help her, and He says He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  

We believe that was His primary mission, but at some point He starts to reach out to the “Gentiles” as well.

Was this encounter the cause of the change?  Can God really even change?  This would suppose a low Christology, but it’s hard to tell what is truly happening.

I’d like to offer another explanation that kind of hit me this week, a more personal, human explanation, if we were to take more of a low Christology approach.  

So, you probably heard that there was a huge wind storm that went through Central Iowa on Monday.  That evening I drove through Cedar Rapids and it was a disaster, so much debris, trees down, houses damaged, it looked like a war zone, or what I’d imagine a war zone to look like.

Then on Tuesday I went to my hometown of Toledo, and to Tama where my Grandmother’s both live, and Marshalltown where my sister lives, and it looked nearly the same as Cedar Rapids, but for some reason, it hit me a lot harder, I was a lot more sad about seeing my hometown destroyed, and all of the mess at my family’s houses.

And as I reflected on it, I realized it was because I knew them better, I knew the actual people in Toledo and Tama and Marshalltown, besides my family I have so many friends in those places, but when I drove through Cedar Rapids, I didn’t know any of them, they were just anonymous faces.

So, let’s think of Jesus as a normal human at this point.  I wonder if this encounter that Jesus had started somewhat anonymously, initially, all he knew about her was that she was a Canaanite woman, and Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Israelites.

So from a human perspective, it didn’t make much sense for Him to want to help her, a rival, especially because His primary mission was to the Israelites.

But Jesus does engage in some conversation with her, and maybe through this bantering he is giving her the opportunity to display her faith, at which point He is assured of the depth of her faith and the sincerity of her humility.  

He gets to know her, even though she is a so-called enemy, and when He knows her, He wants to help her, even though He wasn’t necessarily sent for her  

I’ve heard it said that we can’t help but love someone that we truly know.  Initially, when we see someone, we might only know where they are from, but then once we get to know them, we begin to love them, all of our fears and hesitations come down in the process.

So, two lessons from this.  First, we should get to know our neighbor, there need not be rivalries among us.  We are all children of God, we are all in this together, and there is nothing like a good natural disaster to help us realize that.  Get to know your neighbor and you will learn to love them.

Second, we need to get to know Jesus.  We might have our fears and hesitations about who He is, such as a mean judge, or cold hearted God, or a distant uninterested deity,  but in reality, He is a personal loving God who is so interested in each one of us that He came to suffer and die for the forgiveness of our sins. 

He yearns for a relationship with us.  Open your heart to Him in trusting humility and He will bless you for it, He will work miracles in your life as well.