Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 20, 2017
Reading 1IS 56:1, 6-7
Responsorial PsalmPS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
- (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
Reading 2ROM 11:13-15, 29-32
AlleluiaCF. MT 4:23
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
One day a farmer's donkey fell down into a well. The animal cried for hours as the farmer tried to figure out what to do.
Finally, he decided the animal was old, and the well needed to be covered up anyway; it just wasn't worth it to save the donkey.
He invited all his neighbors to come over and help him. They all grabbed a shovel and began to shovel dirt into the well. At first, the donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, to everyone's amazement he quieted down.
A few shovel loads later, the farmer finally looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw; with each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.
As the farmer's neighbors continued to shovel dirt on top of the animal, he would shake it off and take a step up.
Pretty soon, everyone was amazed as the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well and happily trotted off!
This is an old Jewish fable you may have heard before but the moral to the story is timeless: the key to getting out of a deep hole is to never give up. Our troubles can be a stepping stone if we shake them off and take a step up.
Like the donkey in the story, the mother in our Gospel today never gives up. She wants to save her daughter and she comes to Jesus with great faith. She never questions whether Jesus can succeed.
In addition, she is very persistent in asking for help. She is not discouraged by an initial lack of response from Jesus or when he tests her faith. Jesus likely knew what her responses would be and used this exchange to teach the disciples, and us, that God rewards faith wherever He finds it. As Psalm 51 tells us, God “never rejects a contrite heart.”
Finally she is very humble. Her pride is not hurt when Jesus initially refuses her request and she is unassuming when she simply asks: “Lord, help me.”
Faith, persistence and humility…a great example for all of us to follow.
As we reflect on these stories today…can we identify with any of these characters? At some point in our lives we have probably all felt like the donkey at the bottom of the well with dirt being shoveled on us. Dark periods in our faith life can happen to anyone and might be a chance to take our faith to the next level. We need to be stubborn like the donkey and never give up. Our faith is a precious gift. Like the pearl of great price, it is too valuable to let go.
One problem we may face is having a faith crisis and not realizing it. The secular world in which we live in, does a good job distracting us from our faith and rewarding our lapses in devotion. Following the path of least resistance can lead us down into a deep dark comfortable hole.
The good news is that there are many faithful friends in this parish and Archbishop Michael and Father Jim are great spiritual leaders. Great examples and accountability are all around us.
If we think about people in our lives, we probably know some that struggle with their own faith. Are they trying to climb out of a hole or have they given up and don’t realize the dirt is filling in around them?
Helping someone with a faith crisis is always a challenge. Not everyone will welcome our help but sometimes the best thing we can do is provide love and support while setting a good example. If our faith brings peace and joy to our own lives, it will be contagious for people who are struggling. Our faith does not eliminate struggles in our lives but gives us the strength and grace to rise above them.
We can throw a rope down into a dark hole to save someone who is struggling with their faith but we can’t force them to grab onto it. They will only grab onto it and climb out of darkness if they believe their life will be better outside the hole. May our encouragement and loving example provide a light to guide them back to their faith.
Like the mother in the Gospel, may we never give up on those we love and let our faith, persistence and humility be an example for those around us.
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