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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - August 20, 2017

Traducir al Español

By Deacon Jeff Mevissen

Our Gospel reading today expresses the two sides to the Gospel of Matthew.  On the one hand, Matthew wishes to present Jesus as the fulfillment of Jewish expectations.  Five times in the first two chapters of the Gospel, Matthew shows Jesus fulfilling the scriptures – perhaps the most memorable is, “The virgin shall be with child and give birth to a son, and they shall call him Emmanuel.”  This not only speaks to the virgin birth of Jesus but also to Jesus remaining God-with-us until the end of time.


On the other hand Matthew presents Jesus as the light to all peoples.  In Chapter 2 Matthew narrates the visit of the Magi.  We call this the Epiphany – the revelation of Jesus to the nations.  How do we reconcile these two sides to the Gospel of Matthew?  Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and Jesus the light to the nations?  Perhaps Matthew looks back on the ministry of Jesus and describes the mission of Jesus to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.  Then Matthew looks forward to the mission of the church as the light to the nations.  Jesus indeed comes as the Jewish Messiah but after his resurrection he tells his disciples, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.  Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you and know that I am with you always, until the end of the world. (Mt 28: 19-20)


The Canaanite Woman may represent all future disciples who will come from the East and West to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.  How did the woman know to call Jesus, “Son of David?”  The Gospel does not explain, but clearly God granted her the gift of faith.  It is faith that will draw men and women of every nation to the light of Jesus.  The woman gives a clever response when Jesus says that God’s table is set only for the Jewish people.  Yes, but what about the blessings that overflow from the table?  In the Gospel of Matthew, salvation is from the Jews, but in Jesus, is extended to all people.


The insight of the woman causes us to ponder what blessings are granted to the church but overflow to the nations?  This is your homework to consider how blessings can flow from your life because we call these overflowing blessings, “evangelization.”  Let me offer a few suggestions.  We are blessed with an insight into the dignity of human beings.  If human beings are made in the image and likeness of God then human persons should never be used or abused.  In our materialistic society we can value our possessions more than our family and friends.  “Value people and use things, not the reverse,” is the motto of the minimalist movement.  As racism shows its ugly head over and over, we must never follow the temptation to demonize our enemies.  God’s sun shines on the righteous and unrighteous, we are called to love our enemies.  We are blessed with the knowledge that we come from God and we go home to God.  Not only did God knit us together in the womb of our mother but God grants us gifts and calls us to service.  How does a disciple live in the world?  Not as one who treats creation as a commodity to be consumed and discarded; we are stewards and pilgrims who care for the many gifts God has given us.  When we deal with others in the market place it is with joy, with integrity, and with generosity.  We have the precious gift of our faith.  Like Peter in the Gospel from last week, Christ calls us out of the boat.  We must look to Christ, not the fearful height of the waves in our life.  God is bigger than any problem I have – I turn to Christ and say, “Save me Lord.”


Sometimes I worry about loved ones who have grown slack in the practice of their faith.  On the other hand, the Gospel of Matthew never comments on the faith of the daughter of the Canaanite woman.  By the faith of the mother the child was healed.  It is like the men who lowered the paralytic through the roof  -  Jesus saw their faith and healed the man.  It is a mystery why God grants some abundant faith and others so little.  It is up to us, however, who believe to pray for others like the Woman of Canaan, “Son of David, have pity on us.”