Homily (2) 20th Sunday of Year A: Fr. Michael U. UdoekpoReadings: Isaiah 56:1.6-7; Ps 67:2-3, 5-8; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 and Matthew 15:21-28
God’s Blessing Is Inclusive
These blessings include the gift of life, land and property; the gift of good health, the gift of our families, education and occupations. The virtues: faith, hope and love. The gift of patience and the healings we received from God whenever we are sick. The gifts of our communities particularly the Church and her teachings. The gifts to remember to pray and to be grateful to God! These are all blessings from God to everyone.
This subject of inclusiveness of God’s blessings is at the center of today’s Bible lessons. Psalm 67, for instance, pointedly presents us with a praying community that petitions God, “O God let all the nations praise you! (Psalm 67:4). The question is why would the nations, including Israel praise God? Because of all the blessings and gifts they have always received from God, throughout their history.
In the wilderness God was with Israel. He accompanied them through their experiences in exiles. The situation of today’s first reading, from Isaiah 56, is post-exilic (after- the exile), when Israel have just returned from the Babylonian exile. It was a time of high expectations and immense difficulties. There was tension between the returnees (gôlah) and the people of the land, including foreigners who had been living in the area when they were absence, and the foreign wives and children married and raised in exiles. They were limited resources, inefficient leadership, place and space of worship, small and perhaps under construction mutual suspicions and hostilities everywhere, injustices and element of discrimination and segregation prevailed.
In the first readingIsaiah calls for openness, tolerance and justice. Isaiah advocates love and universalism in the new community. He says, “observes what is right and do what is just… for my house shall be a house of prayer for all peoples.” Notice, God’s house is a gift from God. Notice, also Isaiah did not say this gift is ‘for some people,” but “for all people,” Jews and Gentiles, the weak and the strong, the sick and the healthy, the young and the old, male and female, adult and children.
St. Paul did the same in his own way, during his missionary journeys. He was often seen as a proud champion universalism in terms of spreading the Gospel of Christ to all nations, the Gentiles. Though Jewish by birth, he calls himself, an “apostle of the Gentile.” He preached tirelessly everywhere, and reassured the Church, particularly in Rome the irrevocable mercy and unlimited love of God to all nations (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32).
Furthermore, today’s Gospel episode (Matt 15:21-28) sums up these messages of inclusiveness of God’s healing love and favor to his people. Though Jewish, as well, Jesus loves the Canaanite woman. Jesus is merciful to the prayerful and humble sick Canaanite woman. To start with, the woman in the Gospel is so faithful. She is patient. She is gifted with persistence in prayer. Jesus does not care whether she is from south or east, north or west, white or black. All that he knows is that she is a faithful child of God! She cherishes her gifts. She is healed. She recognizes God as the source of prosperity and the giver of all gifts, and the healer of healers! Any of us could be this woman. Do we pray consistently? Do we cherish our faith and gifts? Are we patient enough? Are we open to one another, and to the flow of the Holy Spirit?
We know there are problems everywhere today; violent and challenges of life, wars and threat of wars, illnesses and threats of illnesses- and even the loss of our loved ones. In every circumstances of our life it is important to recognize that our very being is a gift from God, including the gift of the Church. We are called to be tolerant, receptive, loving, merciful and welcoming to one another. Our Church is a house of prayer. It is a house of faith, a symbol of oneness, justice, humility and gratitude to God. It is house of love and temple of divine mercy for all, Jew or Gentile or Canaanite!