Saturday, August 13, 2011

'Send her away' (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.

Let’s back up to the beginning of this Gospel:
Matthew 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 the Messiah’s lineage.
Even the “insiders” were really outsiders:
King David was an outsider at one point;
God’s people were freed slaves, and so forth.

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—
more “outsiders”; then, after the Sermon on the Mount,
the first people Jesus heals are outsiders:
a leper, and a Roman soldier’s servant.

All this is necessary background to this shocking conversation
between the Lord and this woman.

Look again: it is not Jesus who has a problem
with this outsider woman. It is his disciples.
They are the ones who say, “send her away.”

So why does Jesus say these things?
He is saying out loud what his apostles think—
He wants to draw out her faith,
And widen the hearts of his apostles.

Notice, the Lord praises her for “great faith”;
Just last Sunday, he said to Peter,
“oh you of little faith,” even though Peter’s faith
was the greatest of the Twelve.

The Lord is preparing these men for their mission.
It won’t be long before they’ll have folks like this woman coming in by the droves,
wanting to become Christians.

Their hearts have to be a lot wider.

Ours too.

Who are the outsiders, the “those people,”
we might prefer don’t show up?

I think if we want this church to be packed every Sunday,
we could do a lot to make that happen,

if we’re willing to:

> Reach out to family or friends we may be at odds with;

> Step out and visit folks. We did this once,
visiting some of our fellow parishioners.
We’ll do it again soon.

> This isn’t just about inviting folks to church;
first we have to be willing to invite folks into our lives.

Share a meal; spend time; be a friend.
Let them see Christ in you first;
then they’ll be more likely to ask about
how and where you get this life from Christ.

Yes: I’m asking you to be an “evangelist”!

Here’s what I think is a fairly obvious application.
What about all the folks in our area
who are Spanish-speaking?

Are we willing to hear Spanish prayed—
even just for a few prayers and songs—in this church?

This isn’t about anything else
but going the extra mile to make folks feel welcome.

Let’s turn it around:
if you were living in Mexico, not speaking Spanish,
what—from the local parish there—
would make you feel welcome?

Jesus said, “My house shall be a house of prayer
for all peoples.”

What do we really think he wants us to do?
Not what we are comfortable doing.

No comments: