11 August 2014
Ninetheenth Week of Ordinary Time
A project of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales,
DeSales Service Works welcomes volunteers to join
in service, prayer, and learning in our struggling neighborhood.
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.
“Here comes everyone” is author James Joyce’s well known description of the Catholic Church. It’s not clear whether Joyce saw this as a negative or positive characteristic for the Church. But, there can be no doubt about how God sees it. As the new translation of the Roman Missal puts it: Jesus shed his “blood of the new and everlasting covenant… poured out for you and for many.” We may ask ourselves, for how “many? The answer is clear: for ALL!
At the beginning of this gospel scene, it seems that the Lord envisions a smaller embrace for the reach of God’s salvation. Jesus is true God and also true human, and part of being human is learning. There is no sin in simply not realizing something, the fault is denying insight, or acting contrary to the truth.
In this story the Canaanite woman stands up for herself out of concern for her daughter and out of faith in the Higher Power, Creator, God of all. And, she teaches the Lord that the Father’s call knows no boundaries. She is not dissuaded when Jesus does not respond immediately. This woman reminds us that we too must be persistent in our faith and that we too must believe that all of us are welcome to receive God’s healing love. (Dominican Fr. Jude Siciliano offers fuller discussion of this gospel passage.)
Parishes are faithful to this will of God when we offer welcome to all people. One characteristic of Catholicism is that the entire planet is mapped out in dioceses and parishes. Officially registered or not, all humanity lives within parish boundaries, under the care of a community and its pastor and its members. One of the most vivid illustrations of this for me comes from my time in the Oblate parish in Chestnut Hill, Our Mother of Consolation. In a single pew sat a couple who were homeless, and middle class family, and then a wealthy couple. All belonged there.
-Whom do you find hardest to welcome into church?
-How do you do standing up for yourself and your faith against the impulse to be small, neat, and safe about God’s call.
-Have you ever felt unwelcome in any parish?
Fr. Mike McCue, OSFS