Sunday, August 17, 2008

God is Really Good

The homily is on the same scripture that the last post was on. (The last post was an amended version of the bulletin article that appeared the same Sunday as this homily did). Anyway, here it is:

1. Throughout the world today, Catholics of every nation, language, and culture are hearing the same Scriptures, assisting at the same Mass, receiving the same Eucharist. Just to look at our parish should be enough to convince us that God has called us from every nation to be one people. The salvation won by Jesus Christ is for all people. Although we may have many different customs, we have one faith and one Lord, Jesus Christ.
2. Knowing that the promise of Salvation is intended for all people and that we are even called by Christ to evangelize others and bring them into our faith, we might be confused by the behavior of Jesus. We are used to seeing Jesus immediately having pity and healing those who asked Him for His help. But here in the Gospel, Jesus does not seem too willing to heal the daughter of the Canaanite woman. It says that He did not answer her when she called out, even though she called Him the Son of David (a recognition of His kingship and authority). When she persisted, Jesus said It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs (Matthew 15:26). Now how would you feel if someone said that to you? It does not sound very nice, does it?
3. What was Jesus doing? We know that Jesus did not sin, but why did He answer in this rough manner. Why did Jesus ignore her? Did He think that she was crazy, or a troublemaker, or too needy to be bothered with? Or maybe Jesus knew her very well- better than she knew herself. It certainly would have been easy for Jesus to heal her daughter and send her off to leave Him alone. But instead He said that very offputting phrase: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Maybe the reason Jesus did it was to test her and to teach His apostles. What happeneed next was that the woman said Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” And because of this response, she got that for which she had begged Jesus- the healing of her daughter. The reason for which Jesus gave was her great faith.
4. Really we ought to pay attention to what happened to this woman. The promise to open the kingdom of God for all people is fulfilled in Jesus. Relationship with God is no longer simply the result of blood relation. True, God still loves the Jewish people in a special way. Saint Paul reminds us that the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29). After all, Jesus is Jewish, Mary is Jewish, Joseph is Jewish, as is Peter and Paul and all the other Apostles. Yet the most important aspect of their relationship is not blood relationship to Jesus- being a descendant of Abraham, as important as that may be. Jesus said blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it (Luke 11:28). In the first reading we heard: 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 (Isaiah 56:6b-7). It is faith, and trust, and obedience to His word that makes blessed our relationship with God.
5. Observe the Canaanite woman. She cried to the Lord, and it seemed like He was not listening. Yet she did not give up, but rather persisted in her pleas. And when rebuffed, she did not give up even then, but rather humbled herself and continued to trust in God’s goodness. She that Jesus is Lord and King, she recognized that she needed Him above all things, and she trusted in the goodness of God and His abundant mercy.
6. How abundant is the Lord in His gift giving. When it rained this week, did it rain just on the houses of Catholics only? Or only on those who had been to confession in the last month? No! It rained upon all of us. The Canaanite woman knew that God’s love was so great that it was always spilling over. It was not in short supply, neither was it really just for the chosen few. God is not like a miser who does not use his resources for fear of them running out. Instead, God is like a Father, who is always giving His children so much that the table just spills over with food.
7. This is the kind of trust that Jesus is desiring. We may have an experience where God does not seem to be answering our prayers. But like the Canaanite woman, we should press on, trusting that He is indeed hearing us. Maybe we have received “no” as an answer. But that is no reason to imagine that God is not ready to give us that which is good. Even if we have sinned and fallen far away from the family to which we have been called, the Lord stands ready to give us His mercy, if we trust in Him. When we realize that our hopes can only be fulfilled in Jesus and turn to Him in faith and trust that the Lord's goodness is overflowing, then we will experience the abundance of His loving mercy.

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