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Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time: What Do They See?

August 16, 2008

The Jews of Jesus’ time had some funny ways about them.  They were pretty particular about who they hung out with; Samaritans and Gentiles, as well as known sinners, were all strictly off-limits!  You just didn’t hang out with them.  You didn’t talk to them.  And sometimes,  Jesus appeared to buy into that. 

Look at how he reacted to the woman in today’s Gospel.  First, He ignores her.  Then, He talks about her, but not to her, when He tells His disciples, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.”  Finally, when she’s in the dirt in front of Him, Jesus metaphorically equates her to dogs!

But what’s her response?  She keeps after Him!  She knows who He is!  And she knows that He can help her, that He can change her circumstance! And so she keeps pursuing His help for her possessed daughter!

And what happens?  Jesus compliments her faith!  He casts the demon out of her daughter because she had faith He would do it! And He did this in spite of the fact that she wasn’t one of them! He does exactly what the Law says He shouldn’t do, because of her faith.  She was convinced of the truth of what she had heard about Jesus…and Jesus responded to that conviction!

Have you ever known anyone who was a convert to Catholicism?  I know a bunch; heck, I live with one.  One thing I notice about converts, almost universally, is that, if they came to Catholicism on their own, if they made a decision to come into full communion with the Catholic Church, there was something that drove them there.  There was something positive about being a Catholic Christian that answered a question in their hearts.  And, having made that decision to join themselves to Christ in His Church, they are a lot of times the most on fire for the Church!

But what about those of us who were born into this faith of ours?  What do they see, these brothers and sisters who have decided to join us, that has them so on fire for the faith?  And why is it hard for us to see the same thing, and to have the same fire?

 Today’s readings really hit to the heart of that question.   

In our day, we would look at someone who showed as much conviction as this gentile woman like she was a nut.  Religion isn’t supposed to get you abused.  Religion is not supposed to cause “controversy”.  In fact, what’s the maxim about conversation among people you don’t know well?  Don’t discuss politics…and religion, right?  So for us, this Gentile woman is way strange

But in reality, isn’t that the kind of faith Jesus calls us to, brothers and sisters?  A faith that makes us act out of our realizing who Jesus is, and what He’s left us in the Church?  Sure it is!  We’re called to a faith that motivates us to tell everyone about what we believe!  We’re called to be disciples of Christ, spreading the Good News about who He is, and who He’s made us to be!

And we’re even called to be disciples in the face of criticism.  We’re called to be disciples in the face of ignorance and prejudice.  And we’re called to be disciples to all, even if it causes some people to turn their backs on us, and to reject us for who we are as Catholic Christians!

But…that gets pretty hard, doesn’t it?  If you’ve ever had a die-hard Baptist evangelizing you (in your face), and criticizing your faith, then you know how hard it can be.  If you’ve ever plucked a flyer from Tony Alamo “Ministries” off of your windshield after Mass, or had someone step up to you at school or at work and ask you “Why do Catholics do this or that?”, and been without an answer, then you know how hard it can be.  If you’ve ever lost a family member to some other denomination, or some other faith tradition, because “something isn’t right about Catholicism”, then you know how hard it can be.

But…if you’ve taken the time to learn about the why’s of Catholicism, then you know it doesn’t have  to be that hard!  If you read the articles in publications like “Word Among Us”, or if you’ve picked up any of the CDs in the narthex, then you know that our faith is reasonable!  If you’ve read books by Scott Hahn, or Jeff Cavins, or any other convert to the faith, then you know why these people left everything to find Jesus in the Catholic Church!

And if you’re yearning for that kind of knowledge, if you want to learn more about the “why’s” of Catholicism, then you can start reading, and talking, about it.  And you can plan to attend the Apologetics class we’re starting in the parish in September.  And you can learn to explain your faith clearly, to defend it charitably, and to share it confidently.

Remember the woman who petitioned Jesus in today’s Gospel?  No one asked her what she believed.  They just assumed she was wrong, because she was  gentile, and they ignored her until she got so loud that they had to deal with her.  And it was her faith that Jesus saw. It was her faith in Jesus that saved her daughter from possession.

That woman saw something in Jesus, and in the stories she had heard about Him, that convinced her He could help her.  The converts we were talking about also saw something of Christ, in His Church, that caused them, in some cases, to brave persecution (yes, even today!) for the sake of the Church.

What is it they see?  What is it about the Church of Rome, the Church of the Apostles, that would cause people to turn themselves inside out in order to get it?

We should know.  And we can know, if we just try. 

Can we defend our faith charitably?  Can we share our faith confidently?  It’s what Jesus calls us to be able to do. 

But…What do we see?

From → Homilies

One Comment
  1. Fr. W. Everett permalink

    while you touched on some critical points could I offer an extendsion beyond the normal insights: Look at the woman a new – in view of faith itself: truth, knowledge, question, insight to LOVE. She grows from a love of a daughter to act, to a deepening (persistence – question lead her to deeper understanding of the Truth – …) LOVE in Christ through her desire for faith.
    Add to this narrative the notion that her HOMAGE – position…WHERE else in Matthew is this word used? Answer: at the beginning done by the Three Wisemen… the position itself demonstartes a fundamental position in Matthews theology of Jesus as the Christ and through HER SEARCH for such Wisdom she asks further the answer – not so much an action on the part of Jesus, which is the obvious response, but behind this action Jesus has also fed her, taught her that she is one within God – HOMAGE – dirt – soil – equal before God …
    See where this take you – thank you. God Bless!



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