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Free to be Witty with Jesus

A homily given on the Gospel Mt 15.21-28 ("Yes, Lord. But even the dogs eat from the scraps that fall from the master's table.")


 



Glory to Jesus Christ.

We have just heard a short story in the middle

of the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew’s gospel proclaims forcefully that

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Holy Scriptures of the Jews (of our

Old Testament), these Holy Scriptures build up the expectation of the

coming Messiah. In the center piece of the Gospel of Matthew, we have

short stories of recognizing the waited-for Messiah. Just after

today’s gospel we can read: “the crowds were amazed: they saw the mute

speak, the deformed made whole, the lame walk, the blind able to see,

and they glorified the God of Israel”. And Jesus then says: "My heart

is moved with pity for the crowd” and He prefigures the gift of the

Holy Eucharist, the new manna, with the 2nd multiplication of loaves.

These little central passages of the Gospel of Matthew start with

today’s recognition of the Messiah by a Canaanite woman. The

Canaanites in the Old Testament are the direct enemies of Israel,

those for whom no regard is due. And Jesus reminds the Canaanite woman

of this: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Jesus already said to his disciples: “Do not go into pagan territory.

Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” If we follow

today’s gospel of Matthew, Jesus has not left the territory of Israel,

He is only on the border line with of Tyre and Sidon. It is written

literally: the Canaanite woman came out, came out of her pagan

territory to meet Jesus in Israel. In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was

already amazed at the roman centurion who proclaims himself unworthy

of his visit: "Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found

such faith.” While many of Israel reject Jesus, while his chosen

apostles are so often misunderstanding of messsainic signs, we are

given today this Canaanite woman, model for recognition of the

Messiah. What underlies this astonishing freedom of both Jesus and the

Canaanite woman? A profound encounter. The Canaanite woman crossed the

border of Tyre and Sidon, the Canaanite crossed the border of enmity

with Israel because of her faith that Jesus had the power to heal her

daughter. As Jesus challenges her faith, the dialogue progresses, the

Canaanite woman recognizes that the issue is no more the priority

healing of her daughter, but her own necessity of spiritual growth, so

in this 2nd moment she cries out: "Lord, help me." With this cry for

herself to be helped, with this cry for Jesus to meet her own need,

Jesus is free to be witty with her: “"It is not right to take the food

of the children and throw it to the dogs” and the Canaanite woman is

free to be witty with Jesus: “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall

from the table of their masters”. A dialogue of two fully free

persons. Indeed, her first words in answer to Jesus’ humiliating wit

of Jesus are, literally: “Yes, Lord”. Her answer to the derogatory

word of Jesus is “Yes, yes”. And there Jesus expresses his amazement:

“great is your her faith”. She has become a likeness of Jesus. “In

Jesus Christ the Son of God there is only “yes”, says St Paul (2 Cor

1.19). St Paul proclaims his own deep form of “Yes, Lord” today (1Tim

1.15): “Jesus Christ came to save sinners of whom I am the first”.

“Yes”. A question is asked today: will I cross likewise cross borders

to meet with the Messiah? will I cross today the border of my sins to

meet with the Messiah? Will I enter the freedom of the “Yes” of

Christ, the freedom of his Yes to all things. There was a sister in my

community: in all her conversations we would hear her repeating:

“yes.. yes… yes”. What about you? Will you even let Jesus be witty

with you? Will you always answer Him: “Yes. Lord”? When you are

disgraced, will you say: “Yes, Lord”. Today you are called to the

freedom of the children of God. You have a decision to take today.

What will you answer?... “Yes”. Remember! So many martyrs of yesterday

and today choose the “yes” of Jesus, they enter into the everlasting

happiness of Heaven. I finish with the final words of St Paul today:

“To the king of ages, the incorruptible One, the Invisible One, the

only God, honor and glory forever and unto ages of ages. Amen. Next

Sunday is announced the visit of 10 new friends from Windsor to our

Divine Liturgy. Are they going to find the “yes” of Jesus? The “yes”

of the Canaanite woman and of St Paul in this temple? Glory to Jesus

Christ.


(Given 1.15.23)

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