Readings & Reflections with Cardinal Tagle’s video: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time August 17, 2014
Pope Benedict XVI wrote that “faith makes us light, enabling us to escape our own gravity, which drags us down. The terrible trial of a chronically ill child could have wrecked the Canaanite woman’s spirit, weighing her down with despondency and defeat. But faith lifts her from the heaviness of hopelessness and carries her to the “holy mountain” who is Christ. The promise proclaimed by Saint Paul – that God desires to have mercy on all – moves the woman beyond the burden of fatalism and doubt. Before the Answer who is Christ she will not take no for an answer. Even Christ’s silence does not dissuade her. Instead, it serves to steel her belief, showing her a new tack by which to beg for what God is eager to give her. ‘My God, your silence replies better than the many fervors of my love for you’” (Marthe Robin).
Reading 1 IS 56:1, 6-7 – I will bring foreigners to my holy mountain.
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.
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 burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
R/ (4) 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.
R/ 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.
R/ 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!
R/ O God, let all the nations praise you!
Reading 2 ROM 11:13-15, 29-32 – The gifts and the call of God for Israel are irrevocable.
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.
The word of the Lord.
Gospel MT 15:21-28 – O Woman, great is your faith.
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.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1 – Have pity on me
It may have appeared that Jesus had deep contempt for people outside the Jewish nation in the way He initially responded to the Canaanite woman’s request for help as her daughter was being tormented by a demon. When Jesus’ said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel “, it seemed Jesus was way out of line and His action quite a contradiction from what He preached. The balance of the story showed that this was not actually the case. As a matter of fact, it was exactly the opposite.
Jesus showed His apostles and all men who shall believe and come after His time that no barriers should be placed among peoples in their faith with Him. Rich or poor, learned and illiterate, Jew or gentile, all have a special place in His heart. The faith of the Canaanite is so touching as she spoke, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters”, and to which Jesus responded, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
Our gospel today highlights the great faith of the Canaanite. Despite what was set before her, she persevered and believed in Jesus. We too in our desire to be with God, in our struggle to seek His will should be faithful even amidst great difficulties. As instruments of God in His work to bring ALL to His kingdom, we should follow Jesus and remove every obstacle and barrier from everyone’s spiritual path. Race, social status and rank should not be of any importance. The sinful, broken and wounded should never be received in a different way as those who appear to be holy and pious. At the very least they should be given more love, care and mercy. Nothing should be in the way of every man who seeks God and His will.
As our faith teaches, our Church is Catholic which means UNIVERSAL and as such should be open to ALL, with no ‘if’s and buts’! The same applies to all Christian spiritual communities… it applies to our very own church!
Let us ask ourselves the following: Is our community free of any discrimination? Do we give everyone in community equal opportunity to serve God and His people and be fruitful according to one’s God-given gifts?
Encourage every church/community member to be fruitful. Open up ways by which everyone can serve through new mission fields.
Heavenly Father, remove my self righteousness and enable me love and serve all despite our differences. I pray in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Reflection 2 – Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” —Matthew 15:28
In 1953, a fledgling business called Rocket Chemical Company and its staff of three set out to create a line of rust-prevention solvents and degreasers for use in the aerospace industry. It took them 40 attempts to perfect their formula. The original secret formula for WD-40—which stands for Water Displacement, 40th attempt—is still in use today. What a story of persistence!
The gospel of Matthew records another story of bold persistence. A Canaanite woman had a daughter who was possessed by a demon. She had no hope for her daughter—until she heard that Jesus was in the region.
This desperate woman came to Jesus with her need because she believed He could help her. She cried out to Him even though everything and everybody seemed to be against her—race, religious background, gender, the disciples, Satan, and seemingly even Jesus (Matt. 15:22-27). Despite all of these obstacles, she did not give up. With bold persistence, she pushed her way through the dark corridors of difficulty, desperate need, and rejection. The result? Jesus commended her for her faith and healed her daughter (v.28).
We too are invited to approach Jesus with bold persistence. As we keep asking, seeking, and knocking, we will find grace and mercy in our time of need. — Marvin Williams
Something happens when we pray,
Take our place and therein stay,
Wrestle on till break of day;
Ever let us pray. —Anon.
Persistence in prayer pleases God (Source: Our Daily Bread, RBC Ministries).
Reflection 3 – Truly Catholic
A little girl asked her mother, “Mom, where did the human race come from?” The mother answered, “God created Adam and Eve and they had children. That was how the human race came into being.” The next day the girl asked her dad the same question. The father answered, “Millions of years ago there were monkeys. They gradually evolved into humans.” The girl was confused. So she went back to her mother and asked, “Mom, which is true? You said the human race was created by God, but Dad said we evolved from monkeys?” The mother answered, “Well, my dear, it’s very simple. I told you about my side of the family and your father told you about his.”
It has always been said that man is a social being. No man is an island. We always interact with one another – in families and in communities. However, this desire to belong to a group has a strong tendency to become exclusive, and consequently, divisive. We find it difficult to welcome those who do not belong to our group. We oftentimes operate on the basis of our personal biases and culturally established criteria in judging people, as shown in the case of Nathanael: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). This invariably leads to social discrimination and the polarization and fragmentation of society.
Exclusivism, discrimination, social prejudices and divisions are definitely not pleasing in the eyes of God. Indeed, God wants all people to be united in love and harmony for it was He who created them all. That is why He made sure that His house “shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Is 56:7) so that all nations will praise Him: “O God, let all the nations praise you” (Ps 67). As the Psalmist exclaimed, “How good it is, how pleasant, where the people dwell as one! Like precious ointment on the head, running down upon the beard, Upon the beard of Aaron, upon the collar of his robe” (Ps 133:1-2).
The Gospel this Sunday teaches us a lesson on unity and fraternal solidarity among all of God’s people. Interestingly, this lesson comes neither from the disciples nor from any member of God’s Chosen People, but from an outsider – a Canaanite woman.
She was not just a pagan. She was a Canaanite. We remember that the Promised Land was originally occupied by the Canaanites. They were pushed out by the Israelites. That is why, since then, the relationship between the Jews and the Canaanites was that of deep animosity. But the woman did not mind that. She mustered all courage to come near Jesus.
Secondly, she was a woman. In the prevailing culture of their society, it was not proper for a woman to speak to a man in public. And she was asking a favor in behalf of her daughter, not a son. Again she did not mind that. Her love for her daughter was overwhelming as to think about all these issues.
At first, Jesus seemed cold and indifferent: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He even said something, which may have sounded insulting, which again, the woman did not mind. But Jesus did not mean to degrade or malign her. He was simply testing her faith, making sure her faith is pure and strong.
And she passed the test! She could not be dissuaded. She truly believed in Jesus. She addressed Him “Lord” (Kyrios), a sublime messianic title. She repeatedly called out, “Lord, help me!” She was persistent, but, at the same time, profoundly humble: “Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus, who always looks into the heart, praised her: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Jesus acted in her favor because of her true faith. She was a Canaanite, but she truly believed in Jesus, unlike the Jews of his time who rejected him. She was a woman, but she had greater faith than Peter who sank in the water because, according to Jesus, he had “little faith”. She was nobody, an unnamed woman, and even a nuisance in the eyes of the disciples; but she was really “great” in the eyes of Jesus. Clearly, then, it is faith, not social or religious affiliation, that unites us to Jesus.
In baptism, we have received the gift of faith, and have become members of the Catholic Church founded by Jesus Christ himself. And so we call ourselves Catholics. The word “catholic” means “universal”. The Catholic faith, therefore, means a faith that welcomes everybody as Jesus does. True faith does not discriminate; nor does it divide, nor exclude. True faith always welcomes and unites people. When we have true faith in Jesus, like the Canaanite woman, we do not anymore mind our petty differences, economic standing, group affiliations and cultural backgrounds. We simply belong to Jesus; and so we also belong to one another. That is because when we have true faith in Jesus, we see everything with the eyes of God. In His eyes, we are all His beloved children. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross for all peoples of all times. Salvation is offered to everybody. For those who accept Jesus in faith, salvation is theirs.
Before going to Holy Communion, we exchange the sign or kiss of peace with one another. The General Instruction on the Roman Missal reminds us: “It is, however, appropriate that each person offer the sign of peace only to those who are nearest and in a sober manner” (GIRM, 82). This is, therefore, not an occasion to go around, exchanging pleasantries. It is not also the time for the children to go to their parents and grandparents to kiss their hands. Rather, it is a beautiful expression of our unity as members of Christ’s Mystical Body.
Early this month (Aug 03, 2014), the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments released guidelines on the Rite of the Sign of Peace during Mass. The guidelines pointed out several ‘liturgical missteps’ that are made during the Sign of Peace that should be avoided, including: the singing of a ‘song of peace’, that does not exist in the Roman Rite; the people moving around in order to exchange the sign of peace; the priest leaving the altar to give the greeting of peace to the faithful.
One of the early Church Fathers, Theodore of Mopsuestia, explains the meaning of this practice: “This kiss that all exchange constitutes a kind of profession of unity and charity that exists among them. Each of us gives the kiss of peace to the person next to him, and so in effect gives it to the whole assembly, because this act is an acknowledgment that we have all become the single Body of Christ the Lord and so must preserve with one another that harmony… loving one another equally, supporting and helping one another, regarding the individual’s needs as the concerns of the community, sympathizing with one another’s sorrows and sharing one another’s joys.” (Baptismal Homily 4.39)
In closing, we pray in the words of the Eucharistic Prayer II: “Humbly we pray that, partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, we may be gathered into one by the Holy Spirit.” Amen” (Source: Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs, Camarin Road, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1423).
Reflection 4 – O Woman, Great is Your Faith
The prophet Isaiah foresees the day when Gentile foreigners will join themselves to the Lord, when they will love the name of the Lord and keep the Sabbath. On that day, they will observe the covenant and worship on God’s holy mountain and rejoice in God’s house of prayer.
This universal dimension was part of the promise made to Abraham: “by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Genesis 12:3); “by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves” (Genesis 22:18). The kingdom of David had the mission of fulfilling this covenant promise to Abraham and bringing blessing to all the nations of the world. “The liturgy of the Temple is the means by which the children of Abraham are to bestow God’s blessings upon the families of the world” (S. Hahn, “Liturgy and Empire”, Letter and Spirit 5 (2009), 42).
Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 49:6). However, history shows that they failed in this, falling into idolatry and sin. The nations of Israel and Judah were exiled and sent out and into the nations by God. When Jesus, the Son of David, comes, his mission is first to gather the lost sheep of the house of Israel. At the same time, he will gather all men and all nations to himself when he is lifted up.
In this way we understand Jesus response to the Canaanite woman, who addresses him as “Son of David”. Through his initial silence and challenging responses, Jesus is able to bring her to profound faith in him. The woman speaks to Jesus three times, each time calling him “Lord”. First, she asks for pity and mercy for herself and for her daughter. Second, she asks for help. Third, she tells Jesus that she is content even with what is left-over from his table.
Last week, Jesus called his disciples “men of little faith”, this week he calls the Gentile woman a “woman of great faith”. Because of her faith and perseverance, she receives mercy and help and her daughter is healed.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the mission to the Gentiles starts on the day of Pentecost. Jesus had given his disciples the great commission on the day of his Ascension: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). But they were also told to wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit, who would empower them to preach the Gospel and work mighty signs among the people.
Paul is the vessel chosen by God to bring the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Gentiles. He is rightly the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul writes that all have sinned, both Jews and Gentiles. The Jews disobeyed the Law given through Moses; the Gentiles disobeyed the natural law given to all men. Those who have disobeyed, can still receive God’s mercy. Just as the Canaanite woman and her daughter received mercy, healing and salvation, through persistent prayer and Jesus’ power, we too receive mercy, healing and salvation from Jesus Christ. We only have to ask for it.
Read the source text: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/daily-homily-o-woman-great-is-your-faith
Reflection 5 – History of the Church
Purpose: To explain some major heresies and problems faced by the Church–(1) in the past, and (2) as they recur in our times.
Readings: Isa. 56:1, 6-7 • Rom. 11:13-15, 29-32 • Matt. 15:21-28
A priest once met with a young woman, and it came out in the conversation that she was having premarital relations with her boyfriend. The priest asked her what she was planning to do to end that, but she said she had no plans to end it. She said, “I have an agreement with God and it’s going fine.” The priest responded, “You may have an agreement, but it’s not with God. It’s with Satan. God doesn’t make agreements like that.”
Every age has its controversies, and its heresies. In this age, it’s about sexuality: premarital sex, contraception, in vitro fertilization, even abortion. The Church has made its teaching clear, but there are some who would like to change that teaching or ignore it.
When Pope Paul VI published his prophetic encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968, many theologians, and others, tried to undermine his teaching, but all his predictions have come true. He warned of more “infidelity and the lowering of morality”; that the man “may lose respect for the woman” and see her as “an instrument of selfish enjoyment,” not “his respected and beloved companion”; and that governments might impose contraception on their peoples, interfering with “the most personal … sector of conjugal morality” (HV, n. 17). All of these things have happened.
Meanwhile, those who have practiced Natural Family Planning have experienced increased communication and a divorce rate of one in twenty-five or less, compared to the national average of one in two. And, as a method, it is 98 percent effective or better.
In vitro fertilization has been surpassed by natural procreation technology (known as NaPro technology) both in success rate and in economy. Couples who are having difficulty in conceiving have been delighted with this highly scientific, moral, and effective way of helping them conceive naturally.
Regarding premarital sex, secular studies have shown that the divorce rate among those who live together before marriage is, surprisingly, 74 percent, compared to the national average of 50 percent. And, according to a 1992 study published by the University of Chicago, men who have had premarital sex are 63 percent more likely to get divorced than if they had not. Women are 76 percent more likely to divorce if they have had premarital sex (The Family Portrait, Washington, DC: The Family Research Council, 2002, p. 63).
And today, we see many women coming forth to proclaim that their abortions hurt them deeply. There is an association of such women called “Silent No More.”
Every age has its controversies. In the early Church, the controversies were about who Christ was. Arianism claimed he was more than man, but less than God. This error was so widespread that St. Jerome wrote, “The whole world groaned and marveled to find itself Arian.” Yet, the truth of Christ’s divinity won out in the end. There were controversies over the number of wills in Christ, the number of natures, and the number of persons (there are two wills, two natures, but just one divine person).
In the first three or four centuries, there was the Gnostic heresy, which claimed that the body was not important, only the spirit. This error, known as dualism, prompted some Gnostics to treat sexual promiscuity lightly. This same error reappeared in the 1970s, and beyond when dissenters from Humanae Vitae claimed it was “physicalism” to describe certain acts as immoral. One of the key points of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” was to deny such claims, and proclaim that “the body expresses the person” and, thus, is of great significance.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, as well as the 16th century, the issue was corruption in the Church. Did the fact that a number of priests were living with women, or that bishops were grabbing for all the money they could get, mean that people could, in essence, form their own Christian churches? The Albigensians and Waldensians, although they began as dedicated, poverty-living Catholics, decided to start preaching without the permission of the bishops and, in time, fell into all sorts of errors, including dualism, and denying many of the sacraments, and the existence of purgatory. The same sort of thing happened with the reformers of the 16th century who broke from Rome.
Thus, we can see that every age has had its controversies in the Church, but despite the weaknesses and faults of her leaders, the Church has survived and remained the “pillar and bulwark of truth,” as she is described in 1 Tim. 3:14. Those who have tried to reform the Church by breaking with the pope have fallen into all sorts of errors. In our time, it will be no different, with those who try to change the teachings on sexuality.
Jesus loves his Church, and will continue to guide it until the end. This was his promise: “I will be with you always until the end of time” (Matt. 28:20).
Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 285, 495, 817-821, 2089, 2127-2128.
Read the source text: http://www.hprweb.com/2014/07/homilies-for-august-2014/
Reflection 6 – What Moved the Woman to Jesus
“We are united to Christ, we are one, and it is when his Passion becomes real to us, through experience and love, that we grow aware of his presence in us. But for this presence of Christ, his living in us, his actually being our life, we could not bear the things which have actually happened to some, indeed to many, and which are more than a threat to everyone. We can bear them for one reason only, because Christ, who is identified with us, who is in us, has already suffered and overcome everything that we shall suffer, or even can suffer.
“We cannot shed a tear, but that tear has already blinded the eyes of Christ. We cannot be without tears, but that constriction of the heart has constricted his heart. He has known all and every kind of fear that we know, and there is no possible loneliness, no agony of separation, but it is Christ’s; indeed, not one of us can die, but it is Christ dying. And Christ, who faces all these things in our lives, has overcome them all and has sanctified them by his limitless love. His love made every moment of his Passion redeeming and healing and life-giving, and this love, this Christ-love, is ours, just as much as his suffering is.
“We are now beginning in very earnest to experience the contemplation which consists in suffering with Christ, and the way to sanctify it is not so much to suffer with him as to ask him to let us realize that he it is who suffers in us. For, this understood, we cannot help abandoning our will to his completely, and letting him suffer in us in his way, and his way is the way of love. Complete though it is, in his grief there is no bitterness; and what seems to be frustration and waste is not, it is fruitful; this is because every moment of his Passion is informed by love.