Sunday, August 17, 2008

Homily for 20th Sunday Year A

It’s August 16th, and by some people’s counting, the summer is almost over. There are just a few hours left of the Brown County Fair and soon we will need a new excuse for fried food. Soon, the temperature will drop and we will long for 88 degrees! And, since I want the young people to listen to this homily, I won’t even mention the start of school on Thursday. Yes, THIS Thursday.

Yes, summer is ending and there is nothing we can do to stop it. Instead, we can try to meet the year ahead with a plan, a dream, and an expectation. To prepare for the coming fall and everything that is with it: school, Bazaar, and more- we need to look at the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel.

What can we say about her faith?

As a Canaanite woman she is a lower class citizen in two ways: she is a woman and comes from a backward people. There is very little hope for a person like this- few people if any treat her with respect. This might seem forward to us today in our world of information and telephones, but even today, in India and China, baby girls are being aborted simply because they are girls, and many people struggle to be accepted because of their country of origin.

Yet despite the odds stacked against her, she pushes toward the front the crowd, probably struggling against the various villagers telling her to be still, quiet, and to keep her thoughts to herself. Soon she cries out “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” What a personal revelation, instead of protecting herself, puffing herself up, she reveals her weakness! Her daughter, her dear one is afflicted by a demon.

Jesus’ refusal isn’t callous, cold, or cruel, but a statement of his mission at that time. The Canaanite woman pushes herself forward. Jesus’ response may seem cruel, but it is a description of his mission to the People of Israel that precedes his mission to the rest of the world after his Resurrection. He uses an analogy and says “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

Her response is beautiful. We might be put off, we might protest and walk away- but her faith endures and she says, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” And then our Lord heals the woman’s daughter.

So what is our lesson as we leave summer? What can we say about our faith?

There are many people and politicians who say that faith should be private. Maybe even some of us here believe that our faith should not influence the rest of our lives. None of us doubt that our faith should be personal: intensely touching everything that makes us who we are, just like this Canaanite woman. But what if that Canaanite woman had kept her faith silent and private? What if she had separated her faith from her outward life? This fall is a new beginning. What miracle, what justice does our Lord look to accomplish through your personal and public faith?

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