20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – Homily

20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 (4)
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 15:21-28
August 20, 2023

Jesus entered the land of Tyre and Sidon.  There He encountered a Canaanite woman.  As a Canaanite, she would not have been a Jew.  She has heard of the miracles Jesus has been doing.  She has a daughter who was being “tormented by a demon.” 

Having heard that Jesus has driven out demons, with the love of a mother, she went to Jesus to ask him to help her daughter.  She is not a Jew but she called Jesus “Son of David.”  “Son of David” did not just say Jesus was a Jew.  It was not a description used by all Jews.  It was known as a messianic title. 

She was not a Jew but she understood Jesus to be the Messiah.

She cried out to Jesus, “Have pity on me, Son of David.

Jesus “did not say a word in answer to her.

She would not be discouraged.  She kept calling out for pity.

Jesus’ disciples became annoyed at her.  They asked Jesus to send her away.  They believed Jesus came only for the Jews.

Jesus said that He “was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

What did the Canaanite woman do?  She offered homage to Jesus. 

Jesus then said, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” 

Jesus refers to her as a “dog.”  For the people of the time, dogs were not pets.  They were unclean.  To call her a dog would have been seen as a terrible insult.  Does she give up?

She had come as a mother seeking help for her child but she also came with faith.  Jesus recognized how great her faith is.  In recognition of her great faith, Jesus healed her daughter.

What happened to Jesus’ words that He “was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”?  Was Jesus breaking the rules in healing the Canaanite woman’s daughter?

To answer this, let’s take a look at our first reading.  Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord speaks of “the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD.

The Canaanite woman would have been seen as a foreigner by the Jews. 

To join oneself to the Lord would include observing what is right and doing what is just.  It would include becoming his servant and holding to his covenant. 

If they did all this, the Lord would bring them to his “holy mountain.”  God wants everyone to be his people.  Through Isaiah, He says, “for my house shall be a called a house of prayer for all peoples.”  The psalmist wrote, “may all the peoples praise you!

God has always wanted everyone to be his people.  He began with the Jews but He has always desired for all to receive the gift of eternal life.

Thus, when the Canaanite woman gave homage to Jesus, she sought to observe what was right and do what was just.  She sought to become his servant.  In faith, she sought to join herself to the Lord having been one of his lost sheep.

Jesus had spoken to her of “the food of the children.”  For us, the spiritual food that Jesus offers us as his children is the Eucharist. 

Is this food meant for everyone?

I think one of the teachings of our Catholic faith that is not understood by both Catholics and non-Catholics is our teaching that only Catholics can receive Communion.

Shouldn’t the Eucharist be for everyone?

God wants everyone to receive the Eucharist.  However, that does not mean everyone can receive in their present state.

If a Catholic is guilty of mortal sin and has not confessed it, they are not to receive Communion.  Paul calls us to examine ourselves before we receive Communion in 1 Corinthians 11:27-29.

What about those who are not Catholic?  Why are they not allowed to receive Communion?

This is not an invention of humans in the Catholic Church.  In chapter 12 of the Book of Exodus God gives the instructions for the Passover to the Israelites. 

It is the Lord himself “who said to Moses and Aaron:  This is the Passover statute.  No foreigner may eat of it” (Exodus 12:43).  The Lord continues in verse 48, “If any alien residing among you would celebrate the Passover for the LORD, all his males must be circumcised, and then he may join in its celebrate just like the natives.  But no one who is uncircumcised may eat of it.” 

To eat the Passover meal, one has to become an Israelite.

To eat of the Eucharist, one must become Catholic.  One becomes Catholic by being baptized.  If one is baptized in another Christian denomination, then they need to be received into the Catholic Church.

God wants every person to receive the Body of Christ but this is no casual thing.  One must learn what our Catholic faith teaches and be joined to our faith.

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