15 August 2014

SUCH IS GRACE

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mt 15:21-28 (Is 56:1, 6-7 / Ps 67 / Rom 11:13-15, 29-32)


She is a woman.  She is out in the streets.  Revered Judaic custom dictates that she should never strike a conversation in public with any man other than her husband.

She is a Canaanite, a Gentile, looked down upon by the Jews as unclean.  Judaic law strictly prohibits that she be given any direct attention, and any Jew who come any inch closer to her is rendered unclean, too.  But she is in her territory and she has a great need for her daughter who is tormented by a demon.  She hears Him passing by.  She shouts at Him. She tags along with Him.  She pesters Him and His disciples.  For she believes that He can cure her suffering daughter.

His name is Jesus.  In the eyes of those around Him, He is a good Man, a devout Jew, an eloquent Rabbi, a compassionate Healer.  But in the eyes of those who have faith in Him, our selves included, He is the Son of God, the Messiah, not only a Healer but the very Healing Himself.

They are not supposed to meet.  But today, they meet.  It is Him who steps into her territory, the Gospel says.  He withdrew from the His perennial critics - the scribes and the Pharisees - only to find Himself now nagged by a Gentile woman with her unrelenting plea.  "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!  My daughter is tormented by a demon," she cries out to Him.

His disciples join in the nagging: "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."  His reply is disturbingly Semitic: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  But she is a Canaanite, you know; therefore, she cares so little about Semitic expressions. "Lord," she pleads, "help me."  But He seems to be in the mood for a fierce debate.  "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs," He tells her.  But her rebuttal is not only just as frank as His argument but also very logical: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  In all the arguments thrown Him He always wins, but not in this one.  This time, He loses not to a wise scribe or a learned Pharisee but to a woman.  A Canaanite woman.

But she is no ordinary Canaanite woman.  She stands nameless, but she soars high with the kind of faith that even a good name cannot guarantee always.  Shunned by her fellow human beings, she is, however, admired by the Jesus Himself: “O woman, great is your faith!”

In the first reading today, Isaiah declares God's promise of salvation even to the Gentiles. That promise dawns on the Canaanite woman in the Gospel today and her daughter is saved from the demon that torments her.  In the second reading, Paul the Apostle, who is a confessed "Apostle to the Gentiles, writes to the Romans, who, like the Canaanite woman, are pagans by birth, that among God’s irrevocable gifts is His mercy to all men and women.  That mercy – shown to the Canaanite woman in the Gospel today – is what Good News is all about.

The Canaanite woman knows her place and so she has no problem picking up crumbs that fall from the Master's table.  But the table from which those crumbs fall is the Lord's, even just a very small piece creates miracles to a persistent, persevering, and humble faith.  The truth is, this woman's faith is the only key that opens the door to the Lord’s messianic banquet, where regardless of race and creed all are invited to come and be nourished lavishly.

This Canaanite woman remains nameless today, for we are invited to see our selves in her either to affirm us in our great and persistent faith or to challenge our small and weak faith.

The Lord cannot be outdone in surprising us with His merciful love.  He is very generous, even utterly prodigal, with His graces.  If we have the kind of faith that this Canaanite woman has, then we shall all be disposed for the miracles that the Lord is aching to accomplish not only for us but also in us and through us.  With great, persevering, persistent, and humble faith, there is no limit to what He can do for us, in us, and through us.  But if we have no faith in Him, if we quickly surrender, if our faith is proud and haughty, and if we willfully allow our selves to wallow in hopelessness, then the joy of experiencing, much less witnessing, His wonders will never be ours.

Yes, there may be temptations to doubt.  The obstacles to trust may be many.  Massive forces work for us not to believe.  And, yes, in life, there may also be mean villains who are determined to keep us in the fetters of our dark past.  But the love of God which, St. Paul writes in Rom 5:5, "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit," enables us to come to faith and sustains it.

She is a Gentile.  She is a woman.  She is nameless.  And He is a Jew.  While He is truly God, He is truly man too. He has a name: Jesus.  They should not have met at all. But they did.  They should not have talked to each other. But they did.  She has persistent faith.  He has great compassion. They both dared: she to believe humbly and He to show loving mercy. Such is grace.  And when all hope seems gone, this, indeed, is our only saving grace.


2 Comments:

At 8:54 PM , Anonymous maan said...

father bobby, thank you po sa homily na ito :)nabuhay ulit yung faith ko in myself. it's true po na kung gulatan lang din po ang pag-uusapan wala pong makakatalo sa Diyos :) just when im about to give up Jesus always have his way of making me do otherwise. THANK YOU PO! :)

 
At 11:09 PM , Blogger Fr. Bobby said...

shalom, maan!

thank you for nourishing your self with our humble crumbs. i pray that you may stay strong and never give up on all that is truly loving.

love always wins and faith never fails.

please pray for me, too.

God bless you!

- fr. bob

 

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