Homily: Twentieth Sunday Year A God's mercy

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Homily: Twentieth Sunday Year A

Reading 1: Isaiah is speaking to his fellow Jews, who have not lived up to their covenant with Yahweh. He reminds them: observe and do what is right and just according to the commands God gave them.

In contrast to the infidelity of Israel, Isaiah says that foreigners are showing the Lord the proper response more than the Israelites. They are joining themselves to the Lord, loving him, serving him and obeying him. Those who keep the Sabbath holy, are faithful to the covenant; their prayers will be heard.

Relationship with God was not automatic because one was a descendant of Abraham, or was circumcised, or externally went through the motions of worship. Relationship with God came from a commitment that resulted in doing all from the heart, reflecting that God was at the center of one’s life.

Things have not changed from Isaiah’s time till now. Just as the Old Testament people failed to live up to their call so the New Testament people have done the same. 

 

Gospel: Here we have an example of the mercy of God shown to a foreigner or Gentile. Jesus emphasizes her faith in him to be able to heal her daughter from some demonic affliction. But this faith is tested not questioned, so that the woman would grow to a deeper surrender to the will of God.

Her faith endures the initial silence of Jesus and the rebuke of the disciples. She persists. Her faith is further tested by Jesus’ response, which on the surface seems harsh and demeaning.  She persists. She is more concerned for the healing of her daughter than for her personal feelings. The test consists in how far will she go for her daughter?

 

Jesus was stretching her, drawing her more fully into God’s mercy and love through her love for her daughter. Jesus could have easily granted her request at first contact, but did not. He wanted something greater for her than a quick fix.

Sometimes we bring before the Lord our concerns and it seems that the Lord is silent or distant or unconcerned. Rather he is calling us into a deeper relationship of trust and self-surrender, of unconditional love. He desires that we experience a greater understanding of his love and mercy. He doesn’t want to be a quick-fix God, but a God with whom we desire and have an intimate, personal relationship that is based, not only on the answer to our prayer, but to our love and self-surrender to him. Is our relationship based on what he can do for me or on who he is and who I am in relationship with him?

Reading 2: Paul felt continual rejection by the Jewish people to whom he preached the Good News of salvation. In contrast, he found a greater openness among the Gentiles. Even so, Paul still desired the salvation of his own people, regardless of their negative response and ill treatment.

In last Sunday’s reading, Paul stated that he was willing to be separated from God, if it would mean the salvation of the Jews. He believed that God’s call of the Jewish people and the gifts he has given them were irrevocable. The key word is mercy. Until the day of judgment God’s mercy is evident. The gift of salvation is not deserved or earned by Jews or Gentiles. It is a gift from an all-loving God.

Just as God has shown us mercy though we have sinned repeatedly, so Paul believed that God’s mercy will extend to the Jews as well in spite of their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. If it wasn’t for the mercy of God, where would we be?  However, the Day of mercy will cease; the day of judgment will take place.

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