Friday, August 12, 2011

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 56:1,6-7; Rm 11:13-15, 19-32; Mt 15:21-26

Boldness, great faith and determination; a woman who does not take no for an answer; because God’s mercy; God’s salvation is offered to all. The readings of this Sunday invite us to celebrate God whose mercy includes all humanity in his plan of salvation. Our God is a God who brings foreigners to his holy mountain, as we hear from the First Reading. “Foreigners who join themselves to the Lord ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants – all who keep the Sabbath… and hold to my covenant, I will bring them to my holy mountain.” In other words our God is God of the whole world, of Christians, Jews and Gentiles alike, inviting them all to love him, to serve him and keep his Covenant. The Lord will sanctify and accept the prayers and offerings of all those who do so. This universal offer of salvation to all peoples is affirmed in the responsorial psalm 67 that portrays God being praised and worshipped by all the nations to the ends of the earth. “O God, let all the nations praise you.” In the Second Reading Paul, develops a rather complex argument to underline the same themes of universal salvation. Paul main point is that God’s message of salvation was first offered to Israel, but since they did not accept Jesus Christ, that rejection resulted in turning to the Gentiles. Paul argues that the Gentiles must not feel superior because they too started in disobedience. However, their very disobedience became an occasion for them to receive God's mercy. Both Jews and Gentiles have sinned, but God’s mercy is greater than their sins.

Against the backdrop of the inclusiveness of God’s mercy and salvation, in the Gospel passage, we meet a great woman who does not take no for an answer. She is a Canaanite and a woman who is de factor excluded from salvation because of by her race, religion and gender. Jesus does not even think he is called to help her. The woman will not take no for an answer. But this woman is great in that she is prepared to persevere and to be humiliated till she gets her request. She takes a risk to go beyond the conventional boundaries of racial and religious barriers to make her petition. Her reply takes Jesus by surprise. Her insistence changes Jesus’ mind. This story reminds us that even people of other faiths can have genuine faith in God, who will listen to their prayer too. "Then Jesus said to her: O woman, great is your faith! Let it be do for you as you wish." In other words, Jesus recognizes genuine faith in this woman, who even calls him “Son of David.” Jesus uses this occasion to teach us that God's love and mercy extends to all without exception. His merciful healing love knows no boundaries and particularly for the poor and the oppressed who cry to him in faith and trust. Jesus was incredibly impressed by the Canaanite woman's faith, although she was not a Jew. She knew that her boldness was out of order, yet she also knew that the source of life was right in her presence. Her deep faith in Jesus led her to beg just the crumbs under the table, which were not denied even to the dogs. Touched by such faith, Jesus healed her daughter. The message from the readings may be summed up in three points: 1) God's love and mercy is extended to all peoples without exception; 2) Jesus will heal us, our loved ones and our friends too if we have the boldness, great faith and the determination of the Canaanite woman. 3) The secret of that boldness and faith is unlocked by entering into an intimate relationship with Christ; by striving to live a profound faith in Christ, through prayer and faithfulness to his word.

©2011 John S. Mbinda
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