Sunday, August 17, 2008

Insiders & Outsiders (Sunday homily)

Some passages in Scripture are easily misunderstood, such as today’s Gospel.
Why does our Lord Jesus act this way?

It’s not what you may think. Let’s dig deeper.

In our Bible Study every Wednesday night,
we just finished looking at Matthew, line-by-line.
Matthew’s Gospel begins with a genealogy—
a family tree—from Abraham, to David,
down to Joseph, whose wife was Mary.

Matthew calls attention to particular people
in the family tree; he makes sure you know about
the outsiders and non-Jews in Messiah’s lineage.
Even the “insiders” were really outsiders:
King David; freed slaves; even Father Abraham.

Even Jesus was an “outsider.”
Remember, St. Joseph was not his natural father;
our Lord had to be adopted by Joseph,
to be part of his lineage.

Matthew highlights the Magi from the East:
the first people to worship Jesus are…outsiders.
And after the Sermon on the Mount,
the first people Jesus heals are outsiders:
a leper, and a Roman soldier’s servant.
So, back to this passage:
it is not Jesus, but his disciples,
who has a problem with this outsider woman.

After all, Jesus brought his Apostles
to this foreign place—outside Israel;
in other words, he created a “teaching moment.”
The Lord says out loud what
the disciples harbor in their hearts.

Notice, the Lord praises her for “great faith”—
and only last Sunday, recall what he said to Peter:
“oh you of little faith,” even though Peter’s faith
was the greatest of the Twelve.

Yes, the Lord was sent for “the lost sheep of Israel”—
but he knows what he inspired Isaiah,
in our first reading, to say so long before:
God wanted his Israel to draw all nations to himself.
Now Jesus has come to carry that forward.

But the Lord is concerned not only
to change this woman’s life,
but to change the hearts of his disciples—to widen them.
And, in the end, he succeeds:
at the end of Matthew’s Gospel
he sends them to baptize…“all nations.”

By the way, if you’re interested,
our Wednesday night Bible Study
has just started the Acts of the Apostles;
come see how they carry out that command.

There are many lessons here.
One is obvious: who are we to call anyone “outsiders”?
We worship a Savior who the outcast of all outcasts—
the Cross reminds us of that every Mass.

We might reflect on whether there’s anyone
in our lives or our community,
of whom we say, “send her away.”

From Saint Paul, we are reminded that God continues
to have a special mission for the Jewish People,
even though it breaks his heart
when some resist his invitation to faith in Jesus Christ.

Still, Saint Paul cannot be happy that over the centuries,
Christians have been cruel to the Jewish people.
Just as the Apostles had bigoted hearts toward Gentiles,
many Christians have treated God’s People the same way.

Saint Paul holds out hope that, in the end,
God’s first Chosen People will recognize
Jesus as their Lord in their midst.
That is our hope as well.
Paul prays for his fellow Jews
to embrace Jesus the Messiah—and so do we.

Through Jesus, we are adopted
into the same Family Tree.
God’s Jewish People gave us Jesus—
how can we feel anything but gratitude?

When we receive the Eucharist,
you and I are literally being “grafted in”
through our sharing his flesh and blood.
How powerful are the words we all say right before—
the words of the centurion, an outsider:
“Lord, I am not worthy to receive you…
only say the word and I shall be healed.”

What a privilege! What a Gift our Faith is!
This privilege is not our private possession;
Jesus send us to share Him with all the world.


Mark Daniels said...

You have a gift for saying a lot in a few words, Martin. Good sermon. God bless you.

Pastor Mark Daniels

PS: Here's the URL for my sermon on today's Matthew text:

Mark Daniels said...

Thank you for dropping by my blog and for your interesting comments.

I apologize for calling you Matthew in the update. I can't blame you for not wanting to be associated with Matthew Fox! I wouldn't want that either. I've corrected it.

Your comments about the "scraps" are interesting. Brian Stoffregen, a Lutheran exegete whose work is published online, points out that "artos" is untranslated in this pericope and that it's a word that runs like a theme throughout Matthew 14 and 15.

This only adds credence to the notion that the Canaanite woman is set as a deliberate counterpoint to Peter and the other disciples during the storm. The term the disciples use of the woman's shouting--krazo, which, according to my sources carries the meaning of "annoying sound"--is the same verb used of the disciples' cries in Matthew 14:26.

Again, apologies.

Blessings in Christ,
Mark Daniels

Deacon Greg Kandra said...

Hi there, Fr. Martin...

Did you study homiletics with Jim Schmitmeyer?? I detect a similar style!

Keep up the great work.

Deacon Greg
The Deacon's Bench