Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2020

August 16, 2020

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August 16, 2020

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gerardette

Gerardette

Philips, RSCJ

Philips, RSCJ

We are well into the ordinary time of the year; but the readings of today are extra ordinary because the Church calls us to respond to a dual yet single movement which is to go within and experience God’s unconditional mercy and with that energy and passion to go beyond borders to share that mercy with all humanity – something that our world is in great need of now in this time of uncertainty.

Reflecting on the readings of today I am reminded of an incident that took place a while ago. I took a few Christian  friends of mine to a class in which  Muslim, Buddhists and Hindu students shared the way they pray and where God was in their lives – their sharing was simple, deep, was connected to significant moments in their lives and they ended their sharing by inviting all to pray together. A Muslim woman in the audience sitting next to my friend nudged her and pointing to her heart said – my God is here.

We shall find that we can only enter into the value of others, be at home in their houses and make the words of the prophet Isaiah a reality, by a genuine appreciation of its prayer of the heart.  Whatever understanding of God that the heart holds, ‘I will bring foreigners to my holy mountain. I will make them joyful in my house of prayer, says the Lord, “for my house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples”. Please note – for all the peoples; no one is excluded. This takes me to a time when we were preparing special needs children for the Special Olympics. The race began and they noticed that one of their friends had fallen, they stopped in their track, went back, picked her up and they all held hands and ran to the finishing line. This is the spirit that God is nurturing in us in the first reading, the spirit of excluding no one. This can happen by praying together, having compassion together.

The Breath of the Compassionate God breathes on all alike, extending the invitation and making God’s mercy available for all. However we can only feel this breath if we are close enough. The Jews are the beloved of God and the Gentiles are favored and considered worthy of the good news even though they are referred to as pagans. Paul in the second reading is proud to be sent as their apostle.  Israel, the chosen one rejects God and Paul says, ‘God never takes back his gifts or revokes his choice’.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus is in a place that he has spoken of earlier. In Mt. 11. 20-22 20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, for Tyre and Sidon;  it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. In three verses Jesus mentions Tyre and Sidon three times.

A little earlier Jesus is challenging the Pharisees and explaining to his disciples that it is not what goes into the mouth that makes us unclean but what comes out of the mouth because what comes out of the mouth is from our heart.

After all this, now, Jesus has actually come to Tyre and Sidon with His disciples to give them a firsthand experience of what he has been telling them all along. Jesus knows that He is in Gentile territory.  Jesus is met by a woman which is usually the case. She comes to Jesus agitated, worried and afraid about her daughter being possessed by a demon. I am sure when she was crying out the onlookers were waiting to see what this ‘good Jew’ is going to answer. Jesus, a real actor does not answer, not even a word. So true like the disciples elsewhere, they ask Jesus to send her away. Jesus now sides with His disciples and says to her “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the nation of Israel.” Perhaps, the woman, a Canaanite considering herself the lost sheep felt Jesus came for her. Her heart may have jumped with joy. So, she is entitled to make her request. Now she does not shout but says only three words ‘Lord, help me’ (what came out from her mouth was the purity of her heart). Continuing to side with His disciples side Jesus says, ‘it is not right to take the bread from the children and throw it to the dogs.”  The woman is neither offended nor does she take this as the last word and replies to Jesus with the same respect as before “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus is both dumbfounded and proud of this woman!

A dialogue such as this can only happen in an atmosphere of honesty, humility and acceptance. The woman felt this from Jesus and in the dialogue both are honest, Jesus as well as the woman. The woman could have this dialogue with Jesus because of the space provided by Jesus for her to be herself, to ask for what was uppermost in her heart, to claim her rights, to express her opinions, to experience her strength and to know that someone does care. Jesus surprises us, He does not want the woman to have His faith for her request to be granted but commends her for the faith that she already has. Jesus replies to her “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” A faith that defines mothers as I see this in my own mother. The parallel of this event in the gospel of Mark says, 7: 30 ‘and when the woman went home, she found her child lying in the bed, and the demon gone.’ For sure, this woman is now happy and in peace.

In the beginning of the story the woman comes crying out for pity and she goes away perhaps smiling as her faith is affirmed and her request granted. Today, let us go to God, to Jesus just the way we are. Like in Tyre and Sidon, he is in our territory, waiting for us to approach him to ask, to cry out for his mercy for ourselves and for each other and like he said to the woman he will say to us, ‘you have great faith, your request is granted’. In the three readings of today we are given an invitation to be in the house of prayer together, to exclude no one, to experience the mercy of God and a promise that our requests will be granted in God’s way and in God’s time.  

This invitation and promise, this acceptance and love received from Jesus will then give us the courage to go out with passion to proclaim the tender mercy of God to all as we sing with one voice the words of the psalm  today ‘Let all the peoples praise you O Lord, let all the peoples praise you.”

First Reading

Is 56:1, 6-7

PSALM

Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

Second Reading

Rom 11:13-15, 29-32

GOSPEL

Mt 15:21-28
Read texts at usccb.org

Gerardette Philips, RSCJ

Gerardette Philips, RSCJ

Sr. Gerardette Philips, RSCJ, (Religiuses du Sacre Coeur de Jesus) was born in India. She has been living and serving in Jakarta/Bandung – Indonesia over the last twenty years. She serves as the Director of Formation and District Leader of the RSCJ in Indonesia. With her Masters Degree in Special Education she has taught children with special needs as well as developed the curriculum for Training Teachers for the Developmentally Handicapped. She is actively engaged in Dialogue among people of different religions, particularly between Muslims and Catholics.  Her Masters and Doctorate Studies in Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism offered a new approach to Dialogue. Her Doctoral Thesis was ‘Beyond Pluralism: Open Integrity as a suitable approach to Muslim-Christian Dialogue." Over the years in Indonesia she has taught in Catholic and Muslim Universities, given Spiritual Direction, Retreats, Counselling, Peace Programs, Character Education and Peace Building, and Healing programs to children, youth and adults from various cultures and religions. In 2005 she was appointed as Consultor to Pope Benedict XVI in the  Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue, Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. In October 2007 Sr. Gerardette was invited to be a Speaker of the UN-62nd General Assembly at the United Nations on Best Practices and Strategies for Interreligious and Intercultural cooperation for peace: Going Forward. Since June 2009 she has been a lecturer in Parahayangan Catholic University and since January 2014 a Lecturer at the Faculty of Religious Studies-Bandung State Islamic University.

Sr. Gerardette has published “Beyond Pluralism” in English and “Integritas Terbuka” (Open Integrity) along with a module for teachers of Religion in Indonesian. She has published several articles,  has been the resource person at national and international seminars and forums on topics of  Education, Peace, Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality and Interreligious Dialogue.

(Religiuses du Sacre Coeur de Jesus) was born in India. She has been living and serving in Jakarta/Bandung – Indonesia over the last twenty years. She serves as the Director of Formation and District Leader of the RSCJ in Indonesia. With her Masters Degree in Special Education she has taught children with special needs as well as developed the curriculum for Training Teachers for the Developmentally Handicapped. She is actively engaged in Dialogue among people of different religions, particularly between Muslims and Catholics.  Her Masters and Doctorate Studies in Islamic Philosophy and Mysticism offered a new approach to Dialogue. Her Doctoral Thesis was ‘Beyond Pluralism: Open Integrity as a suitable approach to Muslim-Christian Dialogue." Over the years in Indonesia she has taught in Catholic and Muslim Universities, given Spiritual Direction, Retreats, Counselling, Peace Programs, Character Education and Peace Building, and Healing programs to children, youth and adults from various cultures and religions. In 2005 she was appointed as Consultor to Pope Benedict XVI in the  Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue, Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. In October 2007 Sr. Gerardette was invited to be a Speaker of the UN-62nd General Assembly at the United Nations on Best Practices and Strategies for Interreligious and Intercultural cooperation for peace: Going Forward. Since June 2009 she has been a lecturer in Parahayangan Catholic University and since January 2014 a Lecturer at the Faculty of Religious Studies-Bandung State Islamic University.

Sr. Gerardette has published “Beyond Pluralism” in English and “Integritas Terbuka” (Open Integrity) along with a module for teachers of Religion in Indonesian. She has published several articles,  has been the resource person at national and international seminars and forums on topics of  Education, Peace, Theology, Philosophy, Psychology, Spirituality and Interreligious Dialogue.

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