Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A
“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.
Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest,
and in our souls take up Thy rest;
come with Thy grace and heavenly aid
to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.
O comforter, to Thee we cry,
O heavenly gift of God Most High,
O fount of life and fire of love,
and sweet anointing from above.
Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known;
Thou, finger of God’s hand we own;
Thou, promise of the Father,
Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.
Kindle our sense from above,
and make our hearts o’erflow with love;
with patience firm and virtue high
the weakness of our flesh supply.
Far from us drive the foe we dread,
and grant us Thy peace instead;
so shall we not,
with Thee for guide,
turn from the path of life aside.
Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow
the Father and the Son to know;
and Thee, through endless times confessed,
of both the eternal Spirit blest.
Now to the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death,
be glory given,
O Holy Comforter,
henceforth by all in earth and heaven. Amen.
O God, who have prepared for those who live you
good things which no eye can see,
full our hearts, we pray, with the warmth of your love,
so that, loving you in all things and above all things,
we may attain your promises,
which surpass every human desire.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7
Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.
And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him, loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants–
All who keep the Sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their holocausts and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The liberation of the Jews from the exile of Babylon (538 B.C.) was, like the first liberation from Egypt, seven centuries earlier, but a preparation for the real liberation to come. The promised Messiah would bring this final liberation to all mankind. He would set all men free from the slavery of sin and the estrangement from God which sin brought with it into the world, and he would make them citizens-to-be, not of a small corner of this earth, but of the eternal kingdom of heaven.
This liberation has taken place, and we are the new Chosen People of God. The Christian Church is the new temple of God. It is open to all nations and peoples. It is the place where, through baptism, all men become children of God, brothers of Christ and heirs to the eternal kingdom. But it is a “house of prayer,” a place where all must strive to keep God’s laws and be loyal subjects of his kingdom on earth, if they want to earn their place in his heavenly kingdom.
While proud of the privileges God had given them, the Jews, God’s Chosen People of old, neglected their obligations to him and, content with keeping the external shell of the law, forgot to give God true reverence and gratitude from their hearts. This pride and purely external observance blinded them to the true meaning of God’s promises; they were unable to see in Christ the Son of God, which he claimed to be, or the long-promised Messiah. They had grown worldly and politically minded, and had gradually lost interest in God’s eternal kingdom. All they wanted was a worldly kingdom of power and plenty. But Christ’s kingdom was “not of this world.”
The same fate, alas, has befallen many members of the new Chosen People and it can happen to any one of us. This world and its passing interests can blind us to the real facts of life. We can become so enmeshed in the search for the goods of this earth that we leave ourselves no time or no inclination to think about and prepare for the goods of the after-life. Yet, these are the goods that matter!
The industry and zeal with which many–far too many–Christians, use their energies in amassing the goods and comforts of this world would perhaps be understandable, or at least a little less foolish, if they expected to live on here for seven or eight hundred years. But they cannot guarantee themselves even one hundred. Their zeal and industry are surely misplaced. When they have to leave this world they can take none of its goods with them. All that they can produce at the judgment seat are the virtues or vices they accumulated during life. The millionaire and the beggar will be judged by the same yardstick. We will not be asked for our bank account; we will be asked to account for the years God has given us in which to earn eternal credit.
Like the Jews of old, many Christians have in the past let the cares and interests of this life blind them to the true purpose of life. To their grief they have now learned what folly this was. Any one of us could make the same mistake. Today’s lesson reminds us not to follow in that foolish path and end as they did. If we love and reverence the name of the Lord and keep his commandments, we may enjoy God’s gift in this life while making sure of the gift of eternal life, when we are called from this world.
The word of the Lord.
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us; may he let his face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon earth; among all nations, your salvation.
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity; the nations on the earth you guide.
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you! May God bless us, and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
O God, let all the nations praise you!
Rom 11:13-15, 29-32
Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that he might have mercy upon all.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 674 The glorious Messiah’s coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by “all Israel”, for “a hardening has come upon part of Israel” in their “unbelief” toward Jesus.1 St. Peter says to the Jews of Jerusalem after Pentecost: “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for establishing all that God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old.”2 St. Paul echoes him: “For if their rejection means the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?”3 The “full inclusion” of the Jews in the Messiah’s salvation, in the wake of “the full number of the Gentiles”,4 will enable the People of God to achieve “the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ”, in which “God may be all in all”.5
CCC 755 “The Church is a cultivated field, the tillage of God. On that land the ancient olive tree grows whose holy roots were the prophets and in which the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles has been brought about and will be brought about again. That land, like a choice vineyard, has been planted by the heavenly cultivator. Yet the true vine is Christ who gives life and fruitfulness to the branches, that is, to us, who through the Church remain in Christ, without whom we can do nothing.”6
CCC 839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways. ”7The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,8 “the first to hear the Word of God. ”9 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,10 “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”11
1 Rom I 1:20-26; cf. Mt 23:39. 2 Acts 3:19-21. 3 Rom 11:15. 4 Rom 11:12, 25; cf. Lk 21:24. 5 Eph 4:13; I Cor 15:28. 6 LG 6; cf. 1 Cor 39; Rom 11:13-26; Mt 21:32-43 and parallels; Isa 51-7; Jn 15:1-5. 7 LG 16. 8 Cf. NA 4. 9 Roman Missal, Good Friday 13:General Intercessions,VI. 10 Rom 9:4-5. 11 Rom 11:29.
The lesson for us today in these words of St. Paul is that our Christian faith–the greatest gift in life, the pearl of great price–is a free gift from God. Through it we Gentiles, whose pagan ancestors knew nothing of God, have been brought to know and love the God who created us and who will bring us to heaven through the Incarnation of his only-begotten Son.
This is a gift we must cherish and nourish daily in our lives if we hope to earn the eternal happiness which God intended for us when he gave us this gift. Through the sacrament of baptism we have been made brothers of Christ and heirs to heaven, but if we are to die as brothers of Christ and be worthy of our eternal inheritance, we have to live the years given us on earth as true brothers of this same Christ.
This is no easy task, but neither is it impossible, as is proved by the millions who have gone through the same difficulties before us, and have earned their reward. All those who are now in heaven have one thing in common–their great love for God and true appreciation of his gifts to them. If we can imitate these two basic points we too shall, with God’s assured help, make a success of our lives.
A second point we should learn from St. Paul’s message to us today, is that we should pray fervently and often for the conversion of the members of the Jewish race. They are really our brothers in God, for their father Abraham was our father too. He was asked to leave his home and his kindred, his family and his country so that God’s plan for bringing all the peoples of the world to heaven could be put into action. Abraham’s call was the first step in the long journey of preparation for the coming of the Messiah on earth.
For eighteen centuries the direct descendants of Abraham were dear to God, and sometimes they were very near to him. It was through them that God brought Christ and the new covenant to us; it would be fitting now that we, through our prayers and good works, should be instrumental under God, in bringing them to Christ. St. Paul was confident that one day God’s mercy would reach out to them and bring them into his new kingdom. Let us help to hasten that day, so that they will become not only our brothers in Abraham but our brothers in Christ, and our fellow-citizens in heaven.
Mt. 15: 21-28
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.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.1 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.2
CCC 448 Very often in the Gospels people address Jesus as “Lord”. This title testifies to the respect and trust of those who approach him for help and healing.3 At the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Lord” expresses the recognition of the divine mystery of Jesus.4 In the encounter with the risen Jesus, this title becomes adoration: “My Lord and my God!” It thus takes on a connotation of love and affection that remains proper to the Christian tradition: “It is the Lord!”5
CCC 2610 Just as Jesus prays to the Father and gives thanks before receiving his gifts, so he teaches us filial boldness: “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.”6 Such is the power of prayer and of faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes.”7 Jesus is as saddened by the “lack of faith” of his own neighbors and the “little faith” of his own disciples8 as he is struck with admiration at the great faith of the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman.9
1 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15. 2 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21. 3 Cf Mt 8:2; 14:30; 15:22; et al. 4 Cf. Lk 1:43; 2:11. 5 Jn 20:28,21:7. 6 Mk 11:24. 7 Mk 9:23; cf. Mt 21:22. 8 Cf. Mk 6:6; Mt 8:26. 9 Cf. Mt 8:10; 15:28.
There is a lesson, a very necessary one, for all of us in this episode of Christ’s public life. It is the necessity of perseverance in our prayers of petition. Prayer is an essential part of our Christian life, and the essential part of prayer is that of adoration and thanksgiving, but prayer of petition has a big part in our daily prayers. We have so many spiritual and temporal needs, needs which we cannot provide by ourselves. Christ himself has told us to ask him for these needs: “ask and you shall receive.”
Do we ask with the fervor and perseverance which prove that we have “great faith”? That faith is the proof which Christ needs before he grants our requests. The Canaanite woman of whom we have just heard is for us an example of that deep-seated faith and trust in Christ’s power and Christ’s goodness. Even though he ignored her she continued to beseech him, and when he answered with what seemed a direct refusal her faith and trust did not waver. She answered his reason for refusal with another statement which showed that the granting of her petition would not in any way interfere with or impede his primary task, his mission to his fathers chosen people. This was the proof of great faith which he required. He granted her request.
We must imitate and learn from this pagan mother. Her love for her child made her ready to undergo every hardship or suffering for the restoration to health of her loved one. When we turn to Christ in our needs is our faith in him as sincere and unwavering as was this woman’s? No doubt it often is, and yet we do not get the desired answer. As Christians we know that our particular request may not always be for our good, or for the final good of the person for whom we are praying. In that case, the good God will not grant what would be to our eternal disadvantage. But if our prayer is sincere and persevering–we shall always get an answer, and one which is better than what we asked for.
How often do we wonder at or perhaps doubt God’s mercy when we see, for example, the young father of a family being taken from his loved and helpless ones, notwithstanding the prayers and tears of his wife and children. Where is God’s mercy here? Where is his answer to these sincere prayers? But who are we to question God’s mercy? The answer is there and often clear enough: that death brings out in his relatives and neighbors virtues which they would otherwise never have had occasion to practice– virtues that will earn for them eternal life.
It is only when we get to heaven–and getting to heaven is our purpose in life–that we shall see how our prayers, sincere and persevering, were answered by God.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.
The Prayer of Jesus
Since the center of the person of Jesus is prayer, it is essential to participate in his prayer if we are to know and understand him… Prayer is the act of self-surrender by which we enter the Body of Christ. Thus it is an act of love. As love, in and with the Body of Christ, it is always both love of God and love of neighbor, knowing and fulfilling itself as love for the members of this Body… The person Jesus is constituted by the act of prayer, of unbroken communication with the one he calls “Father.” If this is the case, it is only possible really to understand this person by entering into this act of prayer, by participating in it. This is suggested by Jesus saying that no one can come to him unless the Father draws him (Jn 6: 44). Where there is no Father, there is no Son. Where there is no relationship with God, there can be no understanding of him who, in his innermost self, is nothing but relationship with God, the Father… Therefore a participation in the mind of Jesus, i.e., in his prayer,… is the basic precondition if real understanding, in the sense of modern hermeneutics – i.e., the entering-in to the same time and the same meaning – is to take place.
His Holiness Benedict XVI Pope Emeritus
A Prayer for Healing
Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to You. Allow your healing hand to heal us. Touch our souls with Your compassion for others. Touch our hearts with Your courage and infinite love for all. Touch our minds with Your wisdom, that our mouths may always proclaim Your praise. Teach us to reach out to You in our need, and help us to lead others to You by our example. Most loving Sacred Heart of Jesus, bring us health in body and spirit that we may serve You with all our strength. Touch gently these lives which You have created, now and forever and we humbly ask this through your son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Inspiration of the Holy Spirit – From the Sacred Heart of Jesus
I reward faith, therefore have faith in me. I came to my own people and they rejected me, with the exception of the humble, who recognized the value of the gift from God. Only those open to the Holy Spirit accepted me as the son of David, the Messiah who was empowered to save the people of God.
All my miracles were granted to those who had faith; I wanted to impress upon everyone the importance of believing in me the Son of the Living God. It is only by accepting me that you can accept the Heavenly Father, it is only by believing in me and having faith in me, that even now you can expect the power of God to manifest in your life through a miracle.
Miracles are not as popular now as in my time, because there is no faith. To pray for a miracle is the perfect prayer, but it must come from a heart full of faith, otherwise the petition remains a prayer and is not answered as a miracle.
Many people during the profession of my healing ministry were attracted to me by my miracles, not by their faith; they were curious people in search of the supernatural. However there was also a large number of people who were genuine, they accepted the dignity of my presence among them, they firmly believed in the power of God at my disposal and they merited all the miracles that I performed.
It is in my power to grant any petition I like, but I desire to cultivate faith in human hearts. A prayer to me is most attractive when it comes from a humble and contrite heart. If I were to grant miracles for every petition, men would become very proud and would sin thinking that they had the power to control God’s power.
The true saint prays very humbly for a miracle, echoing my prayer in Gethsemane, “Father, not my will, but yours be done”. The man of faith puts all his trust in the Lord, not in his human effort, and he is prepared to give all the credit to God for every good thing that he receives.
The one who desires a miracle must first acknowledge that he is not worthy to be in my presence, and that he does not even deserve to be heard. Yet, by confessing his sinfulness, his unworthiness, and by acknowledging my holiness, he calls on my compassion for his good desires and may be fortunate to receive.
Do not underestimate the great power of God that is at your disposal if you have faith. Pray for your faith to increase. Believe that I can grant you any good desire of your heart, pray in accordance to my will and wait patiently for my answer.
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