20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 20, 2023 (St. Jarlath’s, 5pm, 7:30am, 9:00am)
Is 56:1, 6-7 / Ps 67 / Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 / Mt 15:21-28
This Canaanite woman who was crying out to Jesus for help, she was an outsider. Not of the faith. And for 1st century Jews, outsiders were considered “dogs” and were not welcomed.
But after having tested her, Jesus proclaims, how “great is your faith!” This outsider, who was deemed unworthy, now has become a model of great faith. She believed. Not only that, but for Jesus to do the unthinkable and speak to this foreigner in public, changes how she is welcomed in. She now also belongs. And so, because she believes and because she belongs, she becomes a blessing for her daughter, who was healed because of her. See where I’m going with this? In other words, she was an example of someone who can believe, belong and bless.
This has been something I’ve shared since I started here last year, hoping that our parish community becomes a place to believe, belong, and bless. This Canaanite woman is an example of that. And more importantly, she does it as an “outsider.” She shows how important it is to always point our faith outward.
As the prophet Isaiah says in the first reading, “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” We belong only if our place of worship is indeed open to all peoples. Or, as St. Paul describes in the second reading today, our faith is in a God that includes those considered as “outsiders” and “disobedient”, because “they too may now receive mercy. For God has shown mercy on all…”
Perhaps there are times when we make the mistake in our spiritual lives of focusing too much inward. We can focus so much on our own stuff, the struggles we have before us, that we don’t realize the goodness of others around us.
I’ve been guilty of that. For example, because of what I shared with you last Sunday, there were a lot of moments leading up to last weekend and then following after it that I kept playing over and over in my mind again and again. Granted that I needed to focus on some important decisions, but I was so wrapped up in it that I found myself not fully present for others. And so, in a moment of distraction on Friday, I was pulled over by CHP because I illegally exited an offramp at a construction zone.
Thankfully, the officer gave us all a verbal warning. Talk about Divine Mercy! But it was a reminder to follow how Jesus treated that Canaanite woman: move our faith outwards, rather than be so wrapped up with my stuff and be blind to the reality of how we are called to be for others.
It was as if this Canaanite woman couldn’t help but proclaim her faith because of the great need. And thus, in turn, became a blessing for others by allowing the power of God’s love and mercy to flow through others.
To believe, to belong and to bless, means that we not only share the goodness of God with others, but also find in others the loving mercy of God for us. And so, mutually, we make this a house of prayer for all peoples.
Take for example, St. Maximilian Kolbe, a Conventual Franciscan priest whose feast day was just last week. He had a great devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He initiated the Militia of the Immaculata.
Now when you hear the term “militia” it may have negative connotations, as if they are some renegade or rebel force trying to take over the world. But remember, this was in the context of World War II, when there was so much violence, war and discrimination happening all over.
St. Maximilian wanted to fight another kind of war. He engaged in the spiritual battles against the forces that were in conflict with the faith. And his weapons were prayer, love, and the example of Mary Immaculate. Thus, the MI wasn’t a mission impossible, but rather, they were missionaries spreading true devotion and faith to Jesus, through the intercession of Our Lady. It was an effort for all peoples to see that God does indeed want His love and mercy to overflow for all.
And his militia simply needed to be attentive to what God was doing in and through others, rather than just themselves. Why else would he sacrifice his own life in place of another man at the Auschwitz concentration camp if it were not for his desire to see the love of God in others.
Through his intercession, and especially the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, may we not be so wrapped up in ourselves that we forget God’s mercy and love flowing out for others. Because that is how we, and how the other, can believe, belong, and bless.