August 9, 2020

O. T. XX (August 16 Sunday)

OT XX [A] (Aug 16) Sunday homily summarized in one page

Introduction: All three readings today speak of the expansive and universal nature of the “Kingdom of God,” in contrast with the theory that salvation was offered first to the Jews and through them alone to the rest of the world. Although God set the Hebrew people apart as His chosen race, He included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all the families of the earth in Abraham (Gn 12:1-3).

Scripture readings summarized: By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading), “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, caste, or color.  The long-expected Messianic kingdom was intended not only for the Jews but for all nations as well. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) rejects all types of religious exclusivity: “Let all the peoples praise You, O God; …For You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth, so that Your saving power may be known among all the nations.” In the second reading, Paul explains that, although the Jews were the chosen people, many of them rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah, and, consequently, God turned to the Gentiles who received mercy through their Faith in Jesus. In the Gospel story, Jesus demonstrates that salvation was meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for her strong Faith. Thus, Jesus shows that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.

Life messages: 1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  Although the essential parts of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving, the prayer of petition plays a big part in our daily lives. Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the “great Faith” we need to receive what Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests. We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for. Rather, God gives us what He knows we really need, what He wants for us, and what is really best for us.  As Christians, we also know that our particular request may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying. But if the prayer is sincere and persevering, we will always get an answer — one which is better than what we asked for.

2) We need to pull down our walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love: Very often we set up walls which separate us from God and from one another. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on Him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are. In other words, God’s care extends beyond the bounds of race and nation to the hearts of all who live, and God’s House should become a House of Prayer for all peoples. It is therefore fitting that we should pray and work sincerely so that the walls which our pride, intolerance, fear, and prejudice have raised may crumble.

OT XX [A] (Aug 16) Is 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28 

Homily starter anecdotes (Biblical reason why preachers may use anecdotes in their homilies? Mt 13: 34: All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable).
# 1) “Never give up!”:  Many years ago, in Illinois, a young man with six months formal schooling to his credit, ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady, they became engaged – and she got sick and died, causing her lover a mini nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in a race for the Senate. He ran for President and finally was elected. That man was Abraham Lincoln. Today’s Gospel   presents a Canaanite woman who persisted in her prayer on obtained from the Lord what she prayed for. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

# 2: “If Christians have caste differences…” M. K. Gandhi in his autobiography tells how, during his days in South Africa as a young Indian lawyer, he read the Gospels and saw in the teachings of Jesus the answer to the major problem facing the people of India, the caste system. Seriously considering embracing the Christian faith, Gandhi went to a white-only church one Sunday morning, intending to talk to the pastor about the idea. When he entered the Church, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and told him to go and worship in another church with his own colored people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” (Fr. Munacci) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

# 3: Religious fanaticism: A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, “If there are ten Jewish males in a city, we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males, we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue.” A Baptist police officer had a similar tale. He said, “One Baptist family in a neighborhood witnesses until they bring another family to Christ. Then they form a Church, and start witnessing to the rest of the community. When another family joins, they have a schism and form a rival Church.” According to a Presbyterian homemaker, her communion was a little like vegetable soup. “We have,” she said, “the OPs, RPs, BPs, and Split Peas!” And a Methodist businessman complemented these tales with an apocryphal tale of a man from his Faith community who had been shipwrecked for years on a small island. When found by a passing ship, rescuers asked him why he had constructed three huts, since he was there by himself. “Well,” he replied, “that one is my home, that one is my Church, and that one is my former Church.” Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus extended his healing mission to the Gentiles too. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

Introduction: All three readings today speak of the expansive and universal nature of the “Kingdom of God,” in contrast with the protocol of the day which demanded that salvation should come first to the Jews and through them alone to all the people of the earth. Although God set the Hebrew people apart as His chosen race, He included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all families of the earth in Abraham (Gn 12:1-3). By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading), “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, caste, or color.  The long-expected Messianic kingdom was intended, not only for the Jews, but for all nations as well.   In other words, we all belong to one another; hence, there is no place for discrimination among God’s children. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) rejects all types of religious exclusivity: “Let all the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You.  For You judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon the earth, so that Your saving power may be known among all the nations.” In the second reading, Paul explains that, although the Jews were the chosen people, many of them rejected Jesus as the promised Messiah. Consequently, God turned to the Gentiles who received His mercy through their Faith in Jesus. In the Gospel story, Jesus demonstrates that salvation is meant for the Gentiles as well as for the Jews by healing the daughter of a Gentile woman as a reward for her strong Faith. Thus, He shows that God’s mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in Faith.

The First Reading, (Isaiah 56:1, 6-7) explained: The third part of the book of the prophet Isaiah (chapters 56-66), was written mainly for the Jews who were returning from the Babylonian exile to join their relatives who had been left behind in Judea. But today’s lesson is primarily addressed to those Jews who, after the Exile had officially ended, still chose to remain in Babylon as Jews among the Gentiles. In this passage, the Lord God not only pleaded with these people who preferred exile to the labor of returning to the Promised Land to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple, but also tried to make them understand the role the Gentiles would have in their restored kingdom. Though in the past all who came to the God of Israel were required to accept the Law and the Covenant, God’s concern for those outside that Covenant led Him to a new and radical solution. “The foreigners,” the Lord God declares to us today through Isaiah, “who join themselves to Yahweh, ministering to Him, loving the name of Yahweh and becoming His servants . . . them I will bring to My holy mountain and make joyful in My house of prayer . . . for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Thus Isaiah’s prophecy consoled those Jews who had married Gentiles by assuring them that their God was equally interested in the people of other nations and in the descendants of Abraham. Hence, the exclusivist claims of the Jews as God’s chosen people would have to yield as God made room for others. For besides the exiles of Israel, Yahweh would receive the non-Israelites who had joined themselves to the Lord. In short, the prophet reports, everyone has a part to play in God’s plan — even those who don’t belong to the “true religion.”

In the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) the Psalmist sings God’s blessing on the people of Israel and calls on all nations and peoples to praise God. The Psalm is a response to Yahweh’s declaration in the first reading that the Gentiles will be accepted at the altar of Yahweh.

The Second Reading (Romans 11:13-15, 29-32) explained: In Romans 9 – 11, Paul asks how God could apparently go back on His promise  to Abraham that Abraham’s descendants would always be God’s chosen people, now that those descendants had rejected Jesus. Paul answers his own question by explaining that God’s plan all along had allowed for the Jews’ rejection of Jesus, so that the few Jews who accepted Jesus and went out to preach the Good News, like Paul himself, would be forced to turn to the Gentiles and bring them into the New Covenant. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, God permits evil only if He can draw a greater good out of it. Thus, God permitted both Jews and Gentiles to disobey Him so that He could show His mercy by offering eternal life to everyone who wishes to have it. Frustrated by the slow pace of Jewish conversions and prevented from continuing to work directly among the Jews by the overt, physical hostility Jewish synagogues showed him and his companions, Paul directed his preaching missions to the Gentiles, so that the Jews would become jealous and accept Jesus.  Thus, God’s secret plan to invite all people into the Covenant would be revealed and completed. By the statement, “Their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,” Paul meant that the Jews’ rejection of Jesus allowed the world (the pagans, the Gentiles), to be reconciled to God. By asking the question, “What will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” Jesus meant that the Jews who at last accepted Christ would receive new life through the once spiritually dead pagans. Paul was convinced that the Jewish nation would eventually accept Christ because God’s” irrevocable” call, given to them through Abraham, was a call to eternal salvation. Paul’s failure to convert his fellow-Jews serves as a model for us who must accept failure in our own lives, especially when it concerns our loved ones who refuse what we judge to be to their advantage. Paul’s message is also a challenge to us to pray fervently and often for the conversion of the Jews.

Gospel exegesis: The significance of the miracle: The Gospels describe only two miraculous healings Jesus performed for Gentiles:  the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:10-12) in Capernaum, and the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman which we hear today. The encounter with the Canaanite woman took place outside Jewish territory in Tyre and Sidon, two coastal cities, twenty-five and fifty miles north of Galilee in present-day Lebanon.  The story of this miracle is told by Mark (7:24-30) as well as by Matthew (15:21-23). Both stories of the miracle foreshadow the extension of the Gospel, the Good News, to the whole world.   The woman in the today’s miracle belonged to the old Canaanite stock of the Syro-Phoenician race.  The Canaanites were the ancestral enemies of the Jews and were regarded as pagans and idolaters and, hence, as ritually unclean.  But this woman showed “a gallant and an audacious love which grew until it worshipped at the feet of the Divine, an indomitable persistence springing from an unconquerable hope, a cheerfulness which would not be dismayed” (Fr. James Rowland). By granting the persistent request of the pagan woman, Jesus demonstrates that his mission is to break down the barriers and to remove the long-standing walls of division and mutual prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles. God does not discriminate but welcomes all who believe in Him, who ask for His mercy and who try to do His will.

Trustful persistence rewarded.  Jesus first ignores both the persistent cry of the woman and the impatience of his disciples to send the woman away. He then tries to awaken true Faith in the heart of this woman by an indirect refusal, telling her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman is persistent in her request. She kneels before him and begs, “Lord, help me.” Now Jesus makes a seemingly harsh statement, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The term “dogs” was a derogatory Jewish word for the Gentiles. Dogs were regarded by the Jews as unclean, because they would eat anything given to them, including pork. The woman noticed, however, that Jesus had used the word kunariois–the word for household pets – rather than the   ordinary Greek word for dogs – kuon.   She also observed that Jesus had used the word for dogs in a challenging way, urging her to answer in kind — a sort of test of the woman’s Faith.  So, she immediately matched wits with Jesus. Her argument runs like this: Pets are not outsiders but insiders. They not only belong to the family but are part of the family. While they do not have a seat at the table, they enjoy intimacy at the family’s feet. Hence, the woman replied: “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table!” (v. 27), expressing her Faith that Jesus could and would heal her daughter. Jesus was completely won over by the depth of her Faith, her confidence and her wit and responded delightedly, “Woman, great is your Faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” We notice that the woman was refused three times by Jesus before he granted her request; finally, at her the fourth attempt, Jesus rewarded her persistence, curing her daughter in answer to her plea. This Gospel episode is also an account of a woman who got more from the Kingdom of God than she had hoped for. She had come to Jesus asking for one miracle, and she got two; her daughter was exorcised of her demonic possession and received a new life, and the mother herself, through her experience with Christ, found a new life as well. The greatness of this woman’s Faith consists in: a) her willingness to cross the barrier of racism; b) her refusal to be put off or ignored because of her position in life and c) her humility in admitting that she did not deserve the Master’s attention and time. The Catechism reminds us that the woman in today’s Gospel recognized in Jesus the messianic power attributed to the awaited “Son of David” (CCC #439). For, if one truly believes that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, one trusts him and fashions one’s prayer requests accordingly (CCC #2610).

Life messages: #1) We need to persist in prayer with trustful confidence.  Although the essential parts of prayer are adoration and thanksgiving, the prayer of petition plays a big part in most people’s daily life. We cannot provide, by our unaided selves, for our spiritual and temporal needs. Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: “Ask and you shall receive.” Asking with fervor and perseverance proves that we have the “great Faith” we need to be able to receive all that Christ wants to grant us in response to our requests. We must realize and remember that we do not always get exactly what we ask for, but rather what God knows we need, what He wants for us, and what is really best for us.  What we need most is to receive the peace and security that come from being in harmony with God’s will for us.  As Christians, we also know that our particular requests may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying. In that case, the good God will not grant what would be to our, or their, eternal harm. But if the prayer is sincere and persevering, we will always get an answer – one which is better than what we asked for. Hence, let us trust that every time we pray for something, the answer is already on its way, even before we have asked God for it. We just need to trust God’s timetable and infinite wisdom that He will answer us according to His will and purpose.

#2) We need to pull down our walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love: Very often we set up walls which separate us from God and from one another. Today’s Gospel reminds us that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in Faith and trust, no matter who they are. In other words, God’s care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation to the hearts of all who live, and God’s House is intended to become a House of prayer for all peoples. It is therefore fitting that we should pray that the walls which our pride, intolerance, fear, and prejudice have raised, may crumble. Next, we have to be grateful to God for all the blessings we enjoy. As baptized members of the Christian community, we have been given special privileges and easy access to God’s love.  But we also have serious responsibilities arising from these gifts. One of these responsibilities is to make clear to others, with true humility and compassion, that God’s love, mercy and healing are for them also because they too are the children of God.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

Faith in theory and action: A man who was walking close to a steep cliff lost his footing and plunged over the side. As he was falling, he grabbed the branch of a tree that was sticking out about half-way down the cliff. He managed to hang onto a weak limb with both hands. He looked up and he saw that the cliff was almost perfectly straight and that he was a long way from the top. He looked down and it was a long, long way down to the rocky bottom. At this point the man decided that it was time to pray. He didn’t pray a long, wordy prayer. He simply yelled out, “God, if you’re there, help me!” About that time, he heard a deep voice coming from high up above that said, “I’m here My son, have no fear.” The man was a little startled at first by God’s voice, but he pleaded, “Can You help me? Can You help me?” God replied, “Yes, I can My son, but you have to have Faith. Do you trust Me?” The man answered, “Yes Lord, I trust You.” God said, “Do you really trust Me?” The man, straining to hold on replied, “Yes Lord, I really trust You.” Then God said, “This is what I want you to do: let go of the limb, trust Me, and everything will be all right.” The man looked down at the rocks below, then he looked up at the steep cliff above him and yelled, “Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”

Websites of the week:

1)Compendium of Catechism of the Catholic Church in question & answer form (Ideal for CCD and RCIA classes) : http://www.vatican.va/archive/compendium_ccc/documents/archive_2005_compendium-ccc_en.html

2) Covid 19 pandemic & Hurricane season Websites of the Week

i) Where Is God in a Pandemic? (Jesuit editor in New York Times) http://www.gnmagazine.org/issues/gn57/tsunami_biblical.htm

ii) Is Corona virus an act of God? Views of a Muslim Imam, Jewish Rabbi & Christian theologian: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2020/04/02/coronavirus-god-christain-jewish-muslim-leaders-saying-deadly-plague/5101639002

iii) Did God Send the Covid Virus as a Judgment? Fr. Lawrence Farley: https://www.oca.org/reflections/fr.-lawrence-farley/did-god-send-the-covid-virus-as-a-judgment

iv) Why does God allow natural disasters like hurricane Katrina? http://www.gotquestions.org/natural-disasters.html

v) A biblical perspective of natural disasters: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/22/opinion/coronavirus-religion.html

vi) Why are there natural disasters? http://www.lcg.org/cgi-bin/tw/commentary/tw-comm.cgi?category=Commentary1&item=1125510014

vii) Why are there tsunamis, hurricanes & natural disasters? http://times.hankooki.com/lpage/opinion/200502/kt2005020116045354100.htm

viii) How can a good God cause evils in the world? http://www.thelife.com/disaster/suffering.html

3) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

  Image result for healing the daughter of a canaanite woman

25-Additional Anecdotes

1) Rootedness of Christianity in Judaism: Jean Marie Cardinal Lustiger, a twentieth century French Catholic prelate once explained, “I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that’s unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That’s my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.” In this same regard, Karl Barth noted, “Jews have God’s promise, and if we Christians have it too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted on to their tree.” Speaking to an audience of Jewish men and women, Pope John Paul II declared, “You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” Each of these three statements underscores the rootedness of Christianity in Judaism and recalls the experience of Saul, a Jew who accepted Christ as his Messiah; Paul longed for the day his fellow Jews would do likewise, as recalled in the second reading today. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

2) “Are you waiting to speak to one of us?” Here are a couple of stories about Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, demonstrating how she valued each human being as a child of God and hence, as important. A reporter came to interview her at her office on 4th Street in Manhattan. He could see her talking to a man who was either drunk or mentally ill. Time passed and the reporter grew impatient. Dorothy finally appeared and said, “Are you waiting to speak to one of us?” Obviously, Dorothy did not think that she was more important than the person she was talking with. On another occasion, a woman came in and donated a diamond ring to the Catholic Worker. Her co-workers wondered what Dorothy would do with it.  If she asked one of them to take it to a diamond merchant and sell it, it would buy a month’s worth of rice and other food items for a poor family. That afternoon, however, Dorothy gave the diamond ring to an old woman who lived alone and often came to Dorothy for meals. “That ring would have paid her rent for the better part of a year,” someone protested. Dorothy replied that the woman had her dignity. So she could sell it if she liked and spend the money for rent, a trip to the Bahamas, or keep the ring to admire. “Do you suppose,” Dorothy asked, “God created diamonds only for the rich?”     Dorothy Day was one of the prophets of her day. Her vision allowed her to see all human beings as equal – no one distinguishable from another. She recognized, as Mother Teresa did, the mark of the children of God in everyone, in the same way Jesus recognized God’s child in the Canaanite woman who belonged to a race inimical to the Jews. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

3) “Love it?” she said, “I hate it!” Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of our 32nd President, knew how to assert herself. She once left the White House to visit a prison in Baltimore. Her departure was so early in the morning that she decided not to disturb her husband. Shortly after he got up, he contacted her secretary to ask where his wife was. She replied, “She’s in prison, Mr. President.” “I’m not surprised,” replied FDR, “but what for?” [Bob Dole, Great Political Wit: Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House (New York: Doubleday, 1998), p. 79.] Eleanor Roosevelt was a woman of quiet strength. She was not deliberately controversial, but she was not reluctant to speak her mind about things she considered important. Jesus tells a parable about another such woman in today’s Gospel. Eleanor Roosevelt, late in her retirement, spent part of her day diving from the board into a pool. People by the score filled the pool, and children, too, noticed her diving, swimming, climbing out, and diving again. Someone walked up to her and said, “Mrs. Roosevelt, you surely must love to dive.” “Love it?” she said, “I hate it!” “Well, why do you bother to do it then?” “Someone must set an example for the children,” she replied. In her own gentle but determined way, every dive she made was an encouragement, a push, for those children who, bug-eyed and open-mouthed, watched this old woman and began to think, “Well, if she can do it, I guess I can, too!” Hers was a life-giving push, which nudged these children toward their potential. God’s pushes are always life-giving. Oh, they deal death to the old ways, yes, but only to clear the deck for the new ways, which make life better. The Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman is one of those surprising and uncomfortable pushes. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

4) Universal fraternity: There is a story about a man named Jeremy Cohen, a Texan who, with his family, became host to a rabbi from Moscow one Christmas. To treat the rabbi to a culinary experience unavailable to him in his own country, Cohen took him to his favorite Chinese restaurant. After an enjoyable meal and pleasant conversation, the waiter brought the check and presented each person at the table with a small brass Christmas ornament as a complimentary gift. Everyone laughed when Cohen’s guest turned the ornament over and read the label “Made in India.” The laughter quickly subsided, however, when everyone saw tears running down the rabbi’s cheeks. Cohen asked the rabbi if he were offended at having been given a gift on a Christian holiday. Smiling, the rabbi shook his head and answered, “No, I was shedding tears of joy to be in such a wonderful country in which a Chinese Buddhist restaurant owner gives a Russian Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu in India.” Today’s Gospel episode describes how Jesus extended his healing mission to the Gentiles. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

5) “Lord, I believe:” If you want to get into Olympic competition, you’d better be a pretty good athlete. If you want to get into the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, you need excellent musical ability and training. If you want to get into the Miss America Pageant, you’ll be greatly helped if you are good-looking and somewhat talented. But to get into the Kingdom of God, all you need is Faith – to say, “Lord, I believe,” and to say this, not in words alone, but also in action, expressing Faith through life. The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel story believed. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

6) “But not with that bunch.” Billy Graham once told of an incident that happened a long time ago when teachers could talk about religion in the classroom. A teacher was talking to her class of young boys, and she asked, “How many of you would like to go to Heaven?” And all the hands instantly shot into the air at once, except one. She was astounded. She asked, “Charlie, you mean you don’t want to go to Heaven?” He said, “Sure, I want to go to Heaven, but not with that bunch.” Unfortunately, that is how many religious groups feel about one another. Consider the Middle East, in parts of Lebanon, Christian militias fighting each other and in Syria and Iraq extremist Muslims driving all Christians from their territories on pain of death, unless they convert. All three great Faiths in that part of the world trace their origins through the patriarch Abraham. All three of them honor the Mosaic Law. All three are monotheistic. And yet as the political walls of this world come tumbling down, the religious walls seem to grow higher and higher. How tragic. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus healed the daughter of a Gentile woman in spite of the religious prejudice of his fellow Jews for the Gentiles. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

7) “Nag, nag, nag.” A cartoon in a magazine showed a woman preacher speaking from the pulpit. Two middle-aged portly men were seated near the front. Looking up at the preacher, one of them said, “Nag, nag, nag.” It is a truism that men do not like nagging women. In his Journal, John Wesley tells of some Methodists who were arrested for disturbing the peace with their prayers. They were brought to court, and the judge asked what the charges against them were. One reported, “Your honor, they pretended to be better than other people; and besides, they prayed from morning to night. And what’s more, they even converted my wife. Until she started going among Methodists, she had such a tongue! And now she is quiet as a lamb.” The judge shouted, “Let them go! Let them all go and convert all the nagging wives in town!” In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus and the disciples were confronted with a nagging woman. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

8) “Our Lord Jesus was just a bit of a liberal.” There is a wonderful story about a church in Holland, which felt strictly bound to obey the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. On a certain Sunday, however, the area was threatened by a terrible storm. There was concern that if the dikes were not strengthened, the people would not survive. The police notified the pastor of the danger. He was faced with the decision of whether to call off the services and urge his people to work on the dikes. Unable to make the decision, he called a meeting of his council to decide. The council concluded they would go on with their services. After all, God is omnipotent. He could always perform a miracle with the wind and waves. Their duty was to obey His commands. The pastor tried one last argument. Did not Jesus himself break the commandment and declare that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? Then an old man stood up and said, “I have always been troubled, Pastor, by something I have never ventured to say publicly. Now I must say it. I have always had the feeling that our Lord Jesus was just a bit of a liberal.” (Kasemannin, Jesus Means Freedom). Today’s Gospel presents such a “liberal” Jesus extending his healing touch to a Gentile woman. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

9) It says, “Kills fleas for six months.” Jesus never met a person he didn’t love. People from all kinds of situations found themselves comfortable in his presence. He didn’t come across as stuffy or pretentious. It reminds me of the story of a priest in the mountains of Kentucky who had gone home with a family of new converts for dinner. He was received cordially by all but the small daughter in the family, who stared at him unblinkingly throughout the meal. The priest, somewhat uncomfortable, tried to put the little girl at ease. “Is it my collar you are staring at?” he asked, taking it off and holding it up. When he did so he saw the cleaning instructions on the inside of the collar, and to make conversation, he asked, “Do you know what it says here?” “Yes,” responded the little girl. “My cat has a small collar like it. It says, Kills fleas for six months.” [Buddy Westbrook, London, Kentucky, Loyal Jones, The Preacher’s Joke Book (Little Rock: August House, 1989), p. 26.] I can hear Jesus telling such a joke on himself, can’t you? People who are secure in themselves don’t have to “put on airs.” He was open and caring. People of all sorts were drawn to him, including the Gentile woman in today’s Gospel story. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

10) “The Lady in whom Jesus Christ has come to live.” Catherine Lowe was a young wife and mother. Her husband was the warden at Sing Sing. In the early years of this century, women were not allowed inside the prison “not even the warden’s wife.” Catherine was filled with love, though, and wanted to share her gift of love with other people. She inquired and was told she was absolutely, totally, forbidden to enter the prison. Catherine was a strong-willed woman. When the first inmate basketball game was announced, she risked harsh disciplinary action by taking her two little girls and sitting in the bleachers to watch. Much to her amazement she was not chastised for her action. That one step led to bolder steps. She wanted to help the prisoners. She knew love could make a difference in anyone is life. One day she met a murderer named Jack. He was one of the toughest of the tough. He was big and black and blind, a victim of harsh and cruel racial injustices. Catherine felt drawn to this hardened criminal. “Hi, Jack,” she introduced herself one day. There was no response. The scarred, battered face stared back with icy, unseeing eyes. “What books do you read?” she asked him. The silence was broken. He spit out the words, “I am blind, lady! I can’t read!” This was her opportunity. “Oh, what about Braille?” she asked. No one had even told Jack about Braille let alone taken the time to teach him. “You can read with your fingers!” Catherine explained as she stroked his rough hands. “Please,” she said, “let me see your fingers.” She touched his fingertips, and said, “You can read with your fingertips. I’ll teach you.” And she did. Then she found another inmate and discovered that he was deaf. He could not hear or talk. Catherine learned sign language so she could communicate with this man. She opened doors to worlds of love for one convict after another. And that love redeemed and restored some of the toughest of the tough, the meanest of the mean. In Sing Sing, they called her, “The Lady in whom Jesus Christ has come to live.” Catherine gave her best, a miracle happened inside the walls of a prison and lives were forever changed. A blind man learned to read. A deaf man learned to communicate. A Canaanite woman received healing for her daughter. People are people whatever label they may wear. Faith is Faith wherever we may encounter it. Love will find a way. [Robert H. Schuller, Life is Not Fair but God is Good (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), pp. 103-104.]. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

11) “Baby Snow.” The love and concern for her child shown by the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is quite a contrast with what is happening today. One sub-freezing morning at 3:30 AM in Atlanta during the bitter winter of 1977, a baby was found wrapped in an Indian blanket on the bottom of an apartment complex garbage dumpster. The newborn child was taken to a hospital where nurses named him “Baby Snow.” In the same year a thirty-one-year old woman discovered a new-born baby in a shopping bag lying against a hedge in Brooklyn. Are these rare instances? According to three leading sociologists, the American home is the most violent place in the country. They claim that one million kids are growing up with parents who use guns and knives on them. If we have the compassion of the Canaanite woman, we would have reason to nag Jesus for help. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

12) A tit-for-tat, reminding us of the Canaanite woman: A government clerk was hiking when he came upon a shepherd with a large flock. The clerk looked at the flock and then said to the shepherd, “I’ll bet you I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have here.” The shepherd said, “I doubt you could do that the way they are all bunched together.” The hiker said, “Well, let’s make a wager. If I’m wrong, I’ll give you $100. If I’m right, you have to give me a sheep.” “OK, you’re on.” the shepherd said. “There are 287 sheep here.” said the hiker.  “That’s right,” said the shepherd. You win.  Go ahead and pick out a sheep.” The hiker picked up an animal and put it over his shoulders. “Wait a minute,” said the shepherd, “I bet you I can tell you what you do for a living. If I’m wrong, I’ll give you $100. If I’m right, you have to give the animal back.” “OK” said the hiker. “You are a government bureaucrat,” said the shepherd. “How did you know that?”  The hiker asked. “Put down my dog and I’ll tell you,” replied the shepherd. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

13) All are welcome!: One day, it seems, a certain curious person in heaven asked St. Peter “How many Hindus are in heaven?” Peter replied: “No Hindus”. Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh, then, there are only Christians in heaven?” “No, there are no Christians in heaven either,” replied Peter. “How Many Catholics?” “No, Catholics either.” Then St. Peter said, “Heaven is not meant for any particular group of people. Here, there is no distinction between Hindus, Muslims or Christians for all are welcome in Heaven.” — What else could St. Peter have said? Did not God tell his chosen people, referring to the Temple in Jerusalem which was a symbol of Heaven for them; “My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all peoples” (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

14) The stronger you grow in Love of God in your neighbor, the weaker your doubts about the Faith become: In the book The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky refers to an old woman whose spiritual health begins to deteriorate as rapidly as her physical health. One day she discusses her problem with an old priest, named Fr. Zossima. She tells him about her weak Faith and the doubts she is beginning to have: Is there a God Who cares? Is there life after death? Fr Zossima listens compassionately and says: “There’s no way to prove these things, but you can become surer of them.” “How?” cries the old woman. “By love,” says the old priest. “Try to love your neighbor from the heart. The more you love, the surer you will become about God’s existence and life after death. The more you love, the stronger your Faith will grow and the weaker your doubts will become. This is sure. This has been tried. This works.” Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary doctor, makes the same point in his book Reverence for Life. He says something to this effect: “Do you want to believe in Jesus? Do you really want to believe in him? Then you must do something for him. In this age of doubt there is no other way. If for his sake you give someone something to eat, or drink, or wear – which Jesus promised to bless as though it were done to him- then you will see that you really did it for him. Jesus will reveal himself to you, as one who is alive.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

15) Can we go beyond the obvious? A Franciscan Sister of Mercy, herself a Croat who grew up in Serbia, has been working with rape victims of Bosnia as well as trying to find housing for the many refugees. Dressed in her nun’s habit, she goes to a door and pleads with those who answer, “I have no place to stay. I’m hungry. Can you take me in?” Croatia is deeply Catholic country, so the answer to the nun’s plea is almost always, “Of course, Sister.” Then the nun steps back to let the real refugees with her be seen. They are usually taken in by the family. -Application: Can we go beyond our prejudices? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

16) “A child! There is a child! “There is an incident reported as happening during the China earthquake. After the earthquake had subsided, when the rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house, they saw her body through the cracks. But her pose was somehow strange that she knelt on her knees; her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were supporting an object. The house had collapsed on her. With so many difficulties, the leader of the rescuer team put his hand through a narrow gap on the wall to reach the woman’s body. He hoped that this woman could be still alive. However, the cold and stiff body told him that she had passed away for sure. But he was curious to know what she was protecting from earthquake using her body as a cover. So, he knelt down again and used his hand through the narrow cracks to search the little space under the dead body. Suddenly, he screamed with excitement,” A child! There is a child! “The whole team worked together; carefully they removed the piles of ruined objects around the dead woman. There was a three-month-old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mother’s dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice for saving her son. When her house was falling, she used her body to make a cover to protect her son. The little boy was still sleeping peacefully when the team leader picked him up.” — Today’s Gospel describes the depth of the love of a Canaanite woman for her sick daughter, which prompted her to use all her wits and insistence to get Jesus’ healing attention. (Fr. Bobby Jose quoted by Eddie Cutinha). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

17) The one the Father loves most: A professor of mine once told me the following story: “I’m one of thirteen children. One day when I was playing in the street of our hometown, I got thirsty and came into the house for a glass of water. My father had just come home from work for lunch. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a neighbor. A door separated the kitchen from the pantry and my father did not know I was there. The neighbor said to my father, ‘Joe, there’s something I wanted to ask you for a long time. You have thirteen children. Out of all of them, is there one that is your favorite, one that you love more than all the others?’ I had pressed my ear against the door hoping against hope it would be me. ‘That’s easy,’ my father said. ‘That’s Mary the twelve-year-old. She has got braces on her teeth and feels so awkward and embarrassed that she won’t go out of the house anymore. Oh, but you asked about my favorite. That’s my twenty-three-year-old Peter. His fiancée just broke their engagement and he is desolate. But the one I really love most is little Michael. He’s totally uncoordinated and terrible in any sport he tries to play. But of course, the apple of my eye is Susan. Only twenty-four, living in her own apartment, and developing a drinking problem, I cry for Susan. But I guess of all the kids…. and my father went on mentioning each of us thirteen children by name.” The professor ended his story saying: “What I learned was that the one my father loved most was the one who needed him most at that time. And that’s the way the Father of Jesus is: He loves those most who need Him most, who rely on Him, depend on Him, and trust Him in everything. All that matters is trust. God doesn’t wait until we have our moral life straightened out before He starts loving us.” (Brennen Manning, taken from Lion and Lamb). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

18) Poem-‘The Cold Within’ – Subtitle: ‘200 years of Prejudice’: Six humans trapped by happenstance/ in bleak and bitter cold,/ each possessed a stick of wood,/ or so the story is told. //Their dying fire in need of logs,/ the first man held his back, /for of the faces round the fire,/ he noticed one was black.// The next man looking across the way/ saw one not of his Church/ and couldn’t bring himself to give/ the fire his stick of birch.// The third sat in tattered clothes; /he gave his coat a hitch./Why should his log be put to use/ to warm the idle rich?// The rich man just sat back and thought/ of the wealth he had in store/ and how to keep what he had earned/ from the lazy, shiftless poor.// The black man’s face bespoke revenge/ as the fire passed from his sight;/ for all he saw in his stick of wood/ was a chance to spite the white// The last man of this forlorn group/ did naught, except for gain./ Giving only to those who gave/was how he played the game.// Their logs held tight in death’s still hand,/ were proof of human sin./ They did not die from the cold without./ They died from the cold within.//
–Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus was beyond the prejudice of his people about the pagan Canaanites, bringing healing and salvation to everyone. (James Patrick Kenny; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

19) Gentlemen and Gentile Woman: A gentleman was boasting about the superiority of Catholicism and the holiness of his priests to a Hindu and Muslim friend. Debating at the crossroads they spied a sadhu going into a brothel. “Saw that?” sneered the Catholic. “Our priests won’t be seen there!” Minutes later, a Mullah covered his face with his shawl and entered the brothel too. The Catholic remarked, “Ah, ha, Mullahs are no better than sadhus!” Just then the parish priest also slyly entered the brothel. The Catholic sighed sanctimoniously, “I wonder which of those girls is sick and in need of Sacraments!” —-Strangely, ‘we’ are always holier than ‘they’ just as Pharisees in Jesus’ time claimed superiority over Gentiles. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

20) Let go and …As he lay on his hospital bed in Melbourne, an Australian Marist Brother told his gathered friends the story of his spirituality. It came from watching trapeze artists performing in a circus a few years ago. Trapeze artists are those who perform in a circus with swings. It is an air-borne performance. One of the artists had explained to him, “As a flyer I must have complete trust in my catcher, He has to be there for me with split–second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.” The artist explained that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When the artist flies, he has simply to stretch out his arms and hands and wait for him to catch him and pull him safely over the apron behind the catcher. The flyer should actually do nothing. The worse the flyer can do is to catch the catcher. The flyer is not supposed to catch the catcher. If the flyer grabbed the catcher’s wrists, he might break them, or the catcher might break the flyer’s wrists, and that would be the end of them both. A flyer has to fly and the catcher has to catch, and the flyer has to trust with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” — This is the trust we should have in Jesus and the woman in today’s story demonstrated such a faith. (Augustine K. in The Sunday Liturgy; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

21) A Mother’s Faith and perseverance in prayer: Augustine’s mother, Monica, was a fervent believer who prayed constantly for her son’s salvation. She devoted her whole life to praying for Augustine’s conversion. At one point, when Augustine was becoming devoted to the Manichaean philosophy, Monica begged Saint Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, to speak to Augustine, and show him why their beliefs were not true. Ambrose refused because Augustine was known to have a great intellect and would likely try to savage the holy man’s arguments. The Archbishop assured Monica that he, too, had once been a Manichaean, and that Augustine was too smart to deceive himself much longer. At this, Monica began to cry. Gently, Ambrose dismissed her, saying, “Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” Saint Ambrose was right. After many years and a fierce inner struggle, Augustine was touched by a revelation in Scripture, and became a Christian. When Monica learned of her son’s salvation, she remarked that she had nothing left to live for, for the greatest desire of her heart had been fulfilled. Nine days later, Monica died. And the son she had spent her life praying for, went on to affect the whole world. Monica never quit asking. “Live on as you are living,” said St. Ambrose. “It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” — You are concerned about someone you love? Keep on asking God for help. Don’t let your tears quench the flame of your Faith in God. It may seem like God is ignoring you, but I assure you that is not the case. Don’t give up. Keep asking. And keep on trusting. (King Duncan, When You Need Help, adapted from Ruth Bell Graham, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

22) “But I am really glad that both of us are Halloween.” Two little neighbor girls about the same age, one Christian and one Jewish, were constant companions. After one Easter holiday, the grandfather of the Christian girl asked her what her friend had received for Easter. The girl looked at her grandfather in surprise, and said, “But Grandpa, you should know that Becky is Jewish and she wouldn’t get anything for Easter.” Then she went on to explain patiently, “You see, I am Easter and she is Passover. I am Christmas and she is Hanukkah.” Then with a big smile, she added, “but I am really glad that both of us are Halloween.” [Chuckle Town Times; cited in Quote (12-15-88), p. 376.] — Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman reveals the divisions among peoples that are still tearing our world apart even today. When we get to know one another, however, as Jesus got to know the woman in this brief episode in his ministry, we see that people are people, whatever labels they may wear. (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

23) “I moved the fence.” During the World War II, a small group of soldiers were on a special mission. Their good buddy had died of wounds he suffered during the war. They wanted to bury their friend in a proper grave. They wandered through the countryside until they came to a little village. They found a Church with a small graveyard. The cemetery was surrounded by a white picket fence. The young men found the parish priest and asked if the soldier could be buried in the Church cemetery. The priest expressed his sympathy and asked if the soldier was a Catholic. They said he wasn’t. The priest said he was sorry, but the graveyard was reserved for the members of the Holy Church. He told the young men that they could bury their friend right outside the fence and that he would personally care for the grave. The soldiers were very grateful to the priest and they buried their friend right outside the cemetery on the other side of the fence. Finally, the war was over. The soldiers returned home. One year, at their reunion, they made plans to visit the graveside of their friend. The village hasn’t changed much through the years, and they easily found the Church but couldn’t find the grave of their friend. The priest recognized the former soldiers and went out to greet them. They told him that they could not find their friend’s grave. The priest explained that it just didn’t seem right that the soldier was buried outside of the fence. “So, you moved the grave?” asked the loyal friends. “No,” said the priest, “I moved the fence.” — Time. Each of today’s Scripture Readings speaks of the universal nature of God’s salvation. It is not limited to the Jews only, His chosen people, but also extends to the Gentiles and foreigners. God is the God of all nations and He moves the fence to include all people. (Quoted by Fr. Lakra). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

24) No Hindus, Muslims or Christians in Heaven: A story is told that one day a certain curious person in heaven asked St. Peter: “How many Hindus are in Heaven?” St. Peter replied: “No Hindus.” Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied St. Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh then, there are only Christians in Heaven?” “No there are no Christians in Heaven either,” replied St. Peter. “How many Catholics?” asked the man. St. Peter replied: “No Catholics either.” Then he continued, “Heaven is not meant for a particular group of people. Here there is no distinction between Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists or Christians, for all are welcome in heaven, for here they are all children of God.” — We are the followers of Christ and we believe in our salvation through Jesus Christ. What is our view regarding salvation of others? Is there salvation outside the Church? All the three Scripture Readings of today tell us that God intends salvation to be available for all persons. (Quoted by Fr. Lakra). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony     

25) . “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Today we might think that is terribly harsh; but we forget our own use of stereotypes or clichés that sound harsh to other cultures. For example: Catholics were oftentimes called “mackerel snappers”; northerners were called “damn Yankees” or “carpetbaggers” by those in the deep south; Jewish merchants were stereotyped as greedy (cf. Shakespeare’s character “Shylock”); and the list goes on. Some name-calling was very rude; at other times it was simply cultural banter. The culture that Jesus lived in was no exception. However, Jesus recognizes the woman’s quickness to reply “in kind.” Picking up on the food metaphor, she uses it herself to prove a point: there is plenty of food to go around, even for dogs. However, like Jesus, she was not referring to nutrition, nor to animals. She was referring metaphorically to the power that Jesus possessed to heal, and to the needs of her daughter. Jesus perceived her correct insight and granted her request because of her “great” Faith. — We can draw an excellent lesson from this exchange between Jesus and the woman. It is this: don’t put Jesus in a box about what he can’t or won’t do. If you have a need, take it to him. He alone is worthy, but he reads our hearts and responds accordingly. Have Faith! (Bishop Clarke). (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) Fr. Tony.  L/20

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No. 44) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under CBCI or  Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website- http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604