TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR (A)
August 16, 2020

First Reading (Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7)

Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed. The 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 free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 67: 2-3, 5, 6, 8)

Refrain: O God, let all the nations praise you!

1) May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation. (Refrain:)

2) May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide. (Refrain:)

3) May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear him! (Refrain:)

Second Reading (Romans 11: 13-15, 29-32)

Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.

Gospel (Matthew 15: 21-28)

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus' disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."
He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me."
He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs."
She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."
Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish."
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.

(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.

The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)

Homily

A Mother's Love

Sometimes, all we want to do is to get someone’s attention. In today’s gospel passage, it seems like the Canaanite woman was willing to go to extraordinary lengths to get our Lord’s attention!

As is always the case, I think some background information on this multi-layered text might be helpful in discerning some of the underlying layers of meaning. One commentator I consulted notes the following:

(For an alternate story about dogs, please go here.)

A mother will often go to any lengths necessary to help their children. Consider the following story. The author writes:

I don’t know about you but it sounds to me like having a lot of faith and a lot of love is just what the Canaanite woman had! Persistence goes a long way. It was the same persistence that St. Monica had in praying for the conversion of her son Augustine (both of whose feasts we celebrate later this month). And her prayers were answered after thirty years of apparently fruitless results. Would that we would have the same persistence in our own prayers for ourselves or for others in need!

References:

1. From Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here by Jerry Fuller, OMI. Available here.

2. Ordinary 20 by John Pilch from The Cultural World of Jesus, Year A, pp. 124-125. Copyright 1995 by the Order of St. Benedict, Collegeville, MN.

3. A Mother's Fight for a Special Child. Copyright 1996 by Tom Mulligan. Reprinted from Chicken Soup for the Mother's Soul, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Jennifer Read Hawthorne and Marci Shimoff. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.

(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Food for the Dog

In our Lord’s day, dogs were predominantly “the unclean scavengers of the street, savage and often diseased”. (1) However, in our own society, dogs are predominantly household pets and can often do wonderful things for us. Consider the following story. The author writes:

I never had a dog in my family when I was growing up but my wife had one and had had another one before him that had died. So it was natural that when we started a family, she wanted to have a small dog for the kids that they could get used to. And I guess someone along the line had advised her to get “a long, little doggie” because she got a wire-haired dachsund. Then we got a shepherd mix and now we have two: a terrier mix that we inherited after our son’s divorce and a golden doodle.

Based on all this history, I think I can state unequivocally that dogs love their masters unconditionally. Certainly, the Canaanite woman loved her daughter enough to go to great lengths to secure her healing. But her persistence finally paid off. It was the same persistence that St. Monica had in praying for the conversion of her son Augustine. And her prayers were answered after thirty years of apparently fruitless results. Would that we would have the same persistence in our own prayers for ourselves or for others in need!

Homily #2

The Power of Faith

As is normally the case when we try to discover how a passage of Scripture relates to us today, it would behoove us to learn some of the background facts of the events related in that passage which are taking place some two thousand years ago in a land far away and far removed from our own customs.

First of all, "it describes the only occasion when Jesus was ever outside of Jewish territory. For Jesus this was a time of deliberate withdrawal. The end was coming near; and he wished some time of quiet when he could prepare his disciples against the day of the Cross. There were things which he had to tell them and which he had to make sure that they understood completely before they happened.

"But there was no place in Palestine where he could be sure of privacy; wherever he went, the crowds would find him. So he went north through Galilee until he came to the land of Tyre and Sidon. There, at least for a time, he would be safe from the hostility of the Scribes and Pharisees (who, in verses 1 to 20 of this chapter, had attacked him for allowing his disciples to eat without washing their hands). It also removed all of them from the persistent pressure of the people, for no Jew would be likely to follow him into Gentile territory.

"But even in these foreign lands, Jesus was not to be free from the demands of human need. There was a Canaanite woman who had a daughter who was afflicted by a devil. She must have heard of the wonderful things which Jesus could do and she followed him and his disciples crying desperately for help. At first Jesus seemed to pay no attention to her, and to the disciples, the woman was a nuisance. All they wanted was to be rid of her as quickly as possible.

"But to Jesus there was a problem here. Although he must have been moved with compassion for the woman, she was a Gentile and, even worse, a Canaanite." (1) The Canaanites were the descendants of Ham, one of the three sons of Noah. Once, when Noah was drunk, he fell asleep on his bed naked. Ham went in and saw him naked. Scripture says that Ham and all his descendants were cursed and destined to be slaves because it was wrong for a son to see his father naked. In addition, God had commanded Joshua to annihilate the Canaanites and take over their land. So the Canaanites had no love lost for either the Jews or their God.

Nevertheless, in her first request, the woman addresses Jesus as the Jewish Messiah, which is amazing considering this background. She also requests mercy from him. Webster defines mercy as "compassion that forbears punishing even when justice demands it (e.g., 'he threw himself at the mercy of the court')". (This could well be a reference to the Jewish belief that illnesses, disease and other afflictions were the result of one's sins and therefore just punishment for them.)

Now in asking for mercy, the woman was almost commanding Jesus to honor her request. However, in her second request, she softened her language to "Lord, help me" and knelt before him, assuming the universal posture of prayer.

Finally, our Lord says that it is not fair to take the bread from children and throw it to the dogs. "To call a person a dog was a contemptuous insult. The Jews spoke with arrogant insolence about 'Gentile dogs', 'infidel dogs', and later 'Christian dogs'. In those days, the dogs were the unclean scavengers of the street, savage, often diseased." However, it should be noted that "it is the diminutive word for dogs (kunaria) which is used, and the kunaria were not the street dogs, but rather household pets, very different from the dogs who roamed the streets and probed in the refuse heaps." (1)

So what can be gleaned from this passage? First of all, the contrast between her "great faith" and Peter's "little faith" only a few verses earlier can hardly be accidental (you may recall that last week's gospel passage was the one where our Lord walked on the water towards the boat and Peter sets out to meet him until his faith weakens and he sinks into the water). In addition, in asking for mercy, the woman was doing so not for herself but for another person, namely, her daughter. In essence, "She had made the misery of her child her own. Although she was a pagan, in her heart there was that love for her child which is always the reflection of God's love for all of his children. It was love which made her approach this stranger; it was love which made her accept his silence and yet still appeal; it was love which made her suffer the apparent rebuffs; and it was love which made her able to see the compassion beyond and behind the words of Jesus. The driving force of this woman's heart was love; and there is nothing stronger and nothing nearer to God than that very thing.” (1)

Finally, in taking her daughter's affliction as her own, she was a harbinger of our Lord's own actions in taking our sins on himself.

So what does all of this mean for us? We all know that there is no love in life stronger than a mother's love for her child. Consider the following story. The author writes:

The Canaanite woman in our gospel passage persisted in her faith until our Lord could not refuse to answer her prayer to heal her daughter. In our story, a mother’s faith enabled her to endure the loss of her daughter and avoid despair...or worse. But we should also note that the actions of the Canaanite women were motivated by her love for her daughter.

So the questions for us become: how strong is our faith? How deep is our love for our loved ones? How persistent would we be in our prayers for them (like St. Monica was in her prayers for her son Augustine)? If our faith and love are strong enough, then we will be able to overcome all the trials and tribulations that life can throw at us.

References:

1. From Daily Study Bible by William Barclay. Used with permission.

2. Mother's Day Angel. Copyright 1996 by Jeanne Converse. Reprinted with permission of the author and adapted from Chicken Soup for the Canadian Soul, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Janet Matthews and Raymond Aaron. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. 

(Copyright 2011 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at deaconsil@comcast.net )

Homiletic Notes

As one commentator points out, "the exchange between Jesus and the woman reverses the pattern usually found in such stories. Usually a situation or event provokes a hostile question from some onlooker to Jesus, to which Jesus responds with a correcting or reproving question and then drives home his point by a concluding statement which the opponent would be hard put to deny. In this story, however, it is Jesus who provides the hostile saying and the woman whose retort trips him up and corrects him. It is questionable that Matthew would agree that the woman "trips up" and "corrects" Jesus, whose gift of healing is not exacted from him but is granted by his sovereign grace. Yet the point is important, for the story does describe a reversal brought about by the woman's persistent faith.

(by Sharon Ringe from New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary, Abingdon Press, 2001.)

Alternate Illustration:

Place of Sacrifice. Copyright 1996 by Teresa Anne Arries. Reprinted with permission of the author and adapted from Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul, pp. 200-204, copyright 1997 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Patty Aubery and Nancy Mitchell. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. The author's full story, including a discussion of her relationship with her father, can be found elsewhere on this page (see Place of Sacrifice. (This resource, as well as many others including a specially-priced package of the Chicken Soup books, is available at a discount through the Homiletic Resource Center.)

TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR (A)
August 16, 2020
Penitential Rite

Lord Jesus, you heal the sick. Lord, have mercy.

Christ Jesus, you show mercy to sinners. Christ, have mercy.

Lord Jesus, you break down the barriers of division and welcome all who come to you in faith. Lord, have mercy.

TWENTIETH SUNDAY OF THE YEAR (A)
August 16, 2020
Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: Christ heard the plea of the Canaanite woman in her need and answered her prayer. Therefore, confident that he will intercede for us in our need, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.

Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, strengthen our faith".

That the leaders of the Church will help to make their Church communities into houses of prayer which welcome all peoples, we pray to the Lord.

That the leaders of the nations of the world will do all in their power to break down the barriers of division, we pray to the Lord.

That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will find comfort in their faith during their time of trial, we pray to the Lord.

That the members of our parish community will help to heal the divisions and wounds caused by prejudice and injustice, we pray to the Lord.

That all of those who are on vacation may return refreshed in mind and body and renewed in spirit, we pray to the Lord.

That the Lord will soften the hearts of all those who are filled with hate into hearts full of love for others, we pray to the Lord.

That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the site of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.

That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.

For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.

Celebrant: Heavenly Father, your Son welcomed everyone who came to him in faith. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to welcome others as we would welcome Christ himself. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord.