Miracles take a little longer, so they say!? There is no doubt that I am happy to be with you all, yet again - and we start with this year...
At first reading there appears to be an evident contradiction (or paradox) between
THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [ISAIAH 56: 1. 6 – 7] and the GOSPEL [MATTHEW 15: 21 – 28].
Isaiah proclaims that “the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord, and to be his servants … who keeps the sabbath … and holds fast my covenant – I will bring to my holy mountain.” However, in the Gospel we read of Jesus saying that “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Foreigners I will bring –
but, I was sent only?! Is it realistically possible that Jesus was ignorant of a basic prophetic utterance? Surely not?! However, one thing is certain – the Lord was a real sucker for faith ….. especially faith of the persistent variety.
Here, there are a number of challenges for us – especially as Roman Catholics (or, perhaps, of some ‘bible belt’ fundamentalists?). First of all, does the Lord respond only to Catholics (or bible belt fundamentalists)?
The person petitioning Jesus in the Gospel is, for the disciples, a non-starter on two accounts: (a) Canaanite, and (b) female. The fact that she was a
PERSON OF FAITH (and persistent in her petition) together with her determination to join herself and HER NEED to the Lord escaped their attention entirely. She had to be sent away. Secondly, how often do I send people away, brush them to one side, because I perceive them to be at odds with my approach to faith? It seldom, if ever, occurs to methat my perception may be entirely erroneous – and, indeed, at variance with what the Church, in fact, holds and believes. Too many Catholics start on the wrong foot …. Catholicism instead of Christianity. Christian Faith always comes first. It is impossible to be a so-called good Catholic (whatever that is supposed to mean?) unless I am a committed Christian. The essential foundation of Catholicism is CHRISTIANITY.
There still exists, very often unconsciously, a quite awful arrogance and prejudice in many of us. The fact that there does exist the same in some other Christian folk against Catholics is not an excuse. Thirdly, we could profitably ask ourselves whether the Church still has to address itself in a more comprehensive manner to the vexed question of the role and function of women in the Church? It may well be that the more exaggerated campaigners for women’s rights have been led to their present position and approach through sheer frustration with the official dragging of heels. Is this an exaggeration? If so, please explain the persistent reluctance in some quarters to the introduction of female altar servers? AND – what about the furore Pope Francis stirred when on Holy Thursday he washed the feet of some females, even including a young Muslim. Look again at today’s Gospel and recall the fact that Jesus washed the feet of Judas ….. plus the fact that those having their feet washed on Holy Thursday may very well only be enjoying the crumbs of the master’s table!?
, think of the reactions of so many straight-down-the-aisle Catholics to fellow Catholics who are described as charismatic?! A dozen or so good folk lift their hands in the air during the Lord’s Prayer or some hymn, and 12-dozen others shake their heads in judgmental disapproval …. and the clapping of hands during the singing of some particular versions of singing the Gloria? Well, what has the Church come to? Yes, Jesus Christ was sent, with the first focus on the people of Israel. However, it was never intended to be exclusive of the wider and broader ministry to all people.
TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT EXTRACT [ROMANS 11: 13 – 15. 29 – 32] Saint Paul proudly and emphatically describes himself as “an apostle to the Gentiles.” In addition the apostle emphasises that “the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable …. that he may have mercy upon all.” It is also interesting to read that he admits his motivation to be that “I magnify my ministry in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.” It is not only Catholics who pick-up a get out of jail free card! In fact, the faith, virtue, practice and witness of millions of Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists and others should make us Catholics jealous – and ashamed of our own inadequacies and self-imposed limitations.
TODAY’S PSALM [67 or 66]
proclaims “let the peoples praise you, O God: let all the peoples praise you. … that all the ends of the earth may revere him.” In addition, we are told in the Psalm that God “guides the nations on earth.” Nations are different – and so are people. What IS it that rules the eating with a knife and fork more civilised or hygienic than eating with chop sticks or hands?! We forget, as the Psalm tells us, that “so will your ways be known upon earth and all nations learn your salvation.” It is God’s ways and God’s salvation – not mine, and certainly not exclusively Catholic.