Finding Your Place Week 2

(Homily for Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A)

Message: The Canaanite woman illustrates that salvation is from the Jews - there can be a holy jealousy between Jew and Christian.

We are now in week 2 of the homily series "Finding Your Place." Finding your place in the world, yes, but much more important your place in God's world. As we saw last Sunday this world contains much deception and illusion. Ultimately the real and true world is God's world. That's where we want to find our place.

The first step to finding one's place, we learned, is prayer. God speaks to us in silence - that "tiny whispering sound" which Elijah heard on Mount Horeb. Horeb is the same mountain where Moses saw the burning bush. Like Moses and Elijah you and I need to find a place apart. That means at least 20 minutes a day to pray, to listen to that tiny whispering sound.

Besides speaking to us in prayer, God also speaks in history, especially the history of the chosen people, the Jews. St. Paul reminded us last week that to the Jewish people belong "the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Law, the worship and the promises." Today Paul says very simply, "the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

In a mysterious way you and I find our place in God's world in relation to the Jewish people. Isaiah tells us (in the first reading) if we love the name of the Lord and become his servants, even we Gentiles (non-Jews) can go to that holy mountain. He is referring to Mount Zion, the place of the Jewish temple.

Last May we saw an example of a Gentile going to Mount Zion. It was emotional to see Pope Francis praying at the Temple wall in Jerusalem. With him was his friend, Abraham Skorka, the chief rabbi of Buenos Aires. Before he became pope, he and Rabbi Skorka had conversations on sensitive topics such as God, religion, fundamentalism, politics, and the Holocaust. It resulted in a book, On Heaven and Earth - well worth reading! Pope Francis' visit to Israel, together with Rabbi Skorka, underscores that we find our place in God's world in relation to the Jews.

The relationship is reciprocal, for better or worse. St. Paul speaks about a "jealousy" between Christians and Jews. That jealousy has sometimes turned into destructive envy. But my purpose is not to examine the tragic history of Jewish-Christian relations. As Christians we need to continually repent the envy that led to hatred. Still, we can recognize that while envy is evil, a certain jealousy can be good.

To show the difference between jealousy and envy I use my relationship with a priest who was a wonderful homilist. I admit that my jealousy sometimes led to envy. I hated to hear him praised; I would gossip behind his back and even wish him ill. I am not proud of all that - the sin of envy. Yet there was also a good jealousy. While I could never have his full head of hair, his height or his voice, I could do things to become a better homilist: learn God's word, make it part of my life and communicate it to others.

St. Paul is talking about that kind of jealousy: where a person sees something good that another has and works hard to attain it himself. If I am jealous of another person's car, I may work hard and save money so I can get a similar car. If I am envious, I want to take my key and scratch his car. Do you see the difference? Jealousy strives, envy destroys.

At this point some of you might be asking, What about jealousy in marriage? I will address that issue in two weeks. For today I want you to see the contrast between jealousy and envy.

We can see that difference in today's Gospel. A Canaanite woman (that is a non-Jew) asks Jesus for a favor - to liberate her daughter from a demon. Jesus replies that he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then he adds something that sounds offensive, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." The woman could have flown into a rage: "Who do you think you are? We Canaanites are just a good as the Jews." But she did not say that. She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the tables of their masters."

What an amazing response! Envy demands. Envy gets hurt. Envy insists on its "rights." This beautiful woman did none of that. Instead she had a holy jealousy. She wanted something for her daughter. She overlooked the apparent insult and responded with good humor. Jesus must have smiled. "O, woman, great is your faith!" And he did heal her daughter. (Women often re-write the script for us men, but that's a whole other homily.)

Let's keep this woman in mind and return to her in a time of prayer. This is great Gospel to read when you are tempted by envy and rage. The Canaanite woman keeps her focus. She illustrates a holy jealousy and, as a non-Jew, that salvation is from the Jews. Specifically, as St. Paul says, "from them is...the Christ," the Messiah - Jesus. She shows that there can be holy and fruitful jealousy between Jew and Christian.

Let's conclude by returning to vision of Isaiah:

"The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord
ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord and becoming his servants--
I will bring them to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer. Amen.


Finding Your Place Week 1:
Finding Your Place Week 2:
Finding Your Place Week 3:
Finding Your Place Week 4:
Finding Your Place Week 5:
Week 6: Exaltation of the Cross

Spanish Version

From Archives (for Twentieth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2011: Deep vs. Superficial Faith
2008: Help Me, Lord
2005: Culture Shock
2002: God's Favoritism
1996: Woman, How great is your faith!

Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C

Sunday Homilies

Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)

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Fr. Brad's Homilies (well worth listening)

Bulletin (St. Mary's Parish)

Parish Picture Album

(August 2014)

MBC - Mary Bloom Center, Puno, Peru