Sunday, August 16, 2020

You are the Chosen People and a chosen witness (Sunday homily)

Several years ago, while making a trip to the Holy Land, 
 I changed planes in France, and while waiting for my flight, 
a group of Orthodox Jewish men arrive at the gate. 
As they, too, waited, they gathered in a corner to pray together. 
Like you would be, I was curious, but I did not want to stare. 
Above all, I respected and admired their zeal. 

In the second reading, Saint Paul tells us that to be a Christian 
means being grafted into the “vine” of Israel. 
The Jewish People are God’s Chosen People, 
and one of the things Jesus came to do was to extend that chosenness to all humanity. 
That’s what the first reading foresees. 
Keep this in mind as we look at this strange episode in the Gospel. 

Lots of people think Jesus is denigrating this woman, 
and that he is not interested in welcoming her. 
But that misreads what’s going on. So why does he speak this way? 

One of the main things the Gospels show us is how the Apostles grow in faith – 
and how Jesus repeatedly challenges their narrowness. 
That’s what’s happening here. 

Notice, the Lord lets the Apostles speak first. What do they say? “Send her away”; 
That’s what they said last week about the hungry crowds: “Send them away.” 

What you hear Jesus say, out loud, is what’s in the Apostle’s hearts. 
He says it out loud, precisely to draw out this woman’s greater faith. 
Jesus knew all along what he was going to do for her; 
but he also wants to get the Apostles past their narrow vision. 
And, if you read ahead to the Book of Acts, they get there; 
but here, they are still stumbling. 

All these readings in different ways give us a vision: 
one day, all that divides us, all the issues of race and history, 
language, and past hurts and hates, will no longer matter. 

In Bible times, the idea that Jews and Gentiles could be one was CRAZY! 
Two thousand years later, we’re not there yet. 
Meanwhile, of course, we’ve discovered other ways to be prejudiced. 
One of the easiest things we humans do – and love to do – 
is to divide up against each other. 

Look at the yelling people do over this virus. 
It’s not real, it’s overblown, some say. 
Others are shocked by a lack of vigilance and get into fights at stores. 

Meanwhile there are forces in our country 
who want to turn black against white, rural against urban. 
Lots of us don’t even want to admit who we’ll vote for. 

I am not trivializing these issues. 
But see how much you and I are like those people back then? 
Overcoming these things will be impossible without God’s help. 

Meanwhile, back to those men I saw in the airport. 
In a real way, you and I have the exact same vocation: 
Keep praying. Keep faithful. Keep bearing witness. 
Don’t be afraid to stand out.

1 comment:

rcg said...

Another excellent homily, Father. This is important. We are charged to live our Faith through our choices. It is tempting to proclaim our Faith in words and pull up short in execution. If we lived our Faith, even without words, it would be much more powerful and influential. If our actions are consistent and predictable by our Faith then when we do speak it will be like thunder.