Sunday, August 14, 2011

Prejudice and Persistence (8-18-08)

Just got back to the parish this evening.  Did not preach today, so here's my homily for today's readings from August 18, 2008.  God bless, Father Manny

"Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters."   (Matthew 15:27)
The opening prayer of the mass always sets the tone for the liturgy and never more so than today.  The prayer starts off with the priest saying, "Let us pray with humility and persistence."  Then it proceeds to affirm that God's "care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation.  May the walls, which prejudice raises between us, crumble beneath the shadow of your outstretched arm."  This goes to the heart of what today's gospel is about:  persistence overcoming prejudice.  Jesus initially brushes off the plea of the Canaanite woman to cure her daughter.  She approaches him with humility and persistence.  It was common for the Jewish people in the time of Jesus to refer to foreigners as dogs or even swine.  The disciples are insisting that Jesus dismiss the woman as if she were an annoying fly that keeps pestering them.  But her insistence and her faith ultimately gets her child healed.  She probably knew the fragile and hostile dynamic between the Israelites and the Canaanites all too well, so she just wants the leftovers hoping that will be enough to cure her daughter.  This is a teaching moment for Jesus as he underscores the limitations of his ministry to just the Israelites and reaches out to others just as St. Paul proclaims in the second reading calling himself an apostle to the Gentiles.  Paul seeks to bring the saving message of Christ to all peoples.  The gospel is filled with foreigners who recognize who Jesus truly is:  the Samaritan Woman, the Roman Centurion, the Canaanite woman in today's gospel, and at the foot of the cross, the centurion who testifies, "Truly, this was the Son of God."  (Matthew 27:54)

It must have been hard for the disciples to witness this interaction between Jesus and this woman because after all, weren't they the privileged ones?  Weren't they the ones that were supposed to hold "exclusive rights" to all the blessings that come from God?  Yet it is the dogs and the swine that recognize Jesus as the Christ and testify that he was the Son of God.  They were doing more to help spread the Good News than the Israelites.  Such it is in our time when members of other denominations are doing more to spread the Gospel than we are.  If you turn on your T.V. on Sunday morning, you see countless Christian preachers proclaiming God's word, not one of them Catholic.  I did a little research thanks to TV Guide and on Sunday morning you can hear the word of God preached on free TV on 16 different programs between 6am and 12:00 p.m.  The only Catholic program is the Mass is at 6:30 am on Spanish TV and nowhere to be found on English TV unless you have EWTN because our English Mass has been relegated to the Internet.  [Since this was first written, we have brought the English Mass back to free TV at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings.] We've surrendered the TV airwaves to other denominations.  So I do feel a bit like the disciples in the gospel, I thank God that other denominations are preaching Christ, but, I'll admit it, am a little jealous that the Catholic message is not being promoted with the same fervor as say one Christian church in Broward which had three shows on this morning.  Why don't Catholics have the same fervor that these Christians brothers and sisters have in promoting the Word of God on TV?  It's not just about spreading the Word in the media.  We build up so many walls around us that it is difficult for us to be true heralds of the gospel.  What are we doing to tear down the walls that separate us?  What are we doing to bring others to the table?  My fear is that if we don't do anything to spread the Good News, we're going to be the ones on the outside looking in hoping and praying for the scraps that fall off the Master's table.