Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Monday of the Twenty-second Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

I think much of the reason people don’t preach the Gospel to others is because they think whatever they say or do has to be flashy, has to be as big as God is.  But that never works because God is always bigger!  Proclaiming the Gospel, at its core, is and always should be, as simple as showing people what God has done for us and in us.

The defense St. Paul was making to the Corinthians in today’s first reading describes a way of living that might be very useful for us to consider.  Rather than caring about what people thought of him and proclaiming the word in a powerful way, he instead resolved to keep himself focused on Jesus and to say what he would have him say and live as Jesus himself would live.  His proclamation of example called those Corinthians to recognize a message not based on mere human wisdom but instead on the power of God.  We too can proclaim that same kind of powerful message in the way that we live.

So if there are people in our lives who we wish knew the joy of the Gospel — and who among us doesn’t have someone like that? — then I think today we’re being called to take a fresh look at how we bring Jesus to them. Our proclamation of the Gospel has to be simple and authentic. If our proclamation rests on what we can do, it’s always going to fail. But if it relies on Jesus and what he has done in us, it will be irresistible.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twenty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Here’s something I want you to remember today, and cling to in your spiritual life: We can’t do anything good in our spiritual lives all by ourselves.  We can’t be perfect disciples all by ourselves.  We can’t bring other people to Jesus all by ourselves.  We can’t overcome sin in our lives all by ourselves.  We can’t speak up for the marginalized or take a stand for life all by ourselves.  We can’t vote for the right candidate all by ourselves.  We can’t raise our children all by ourselves.  We can’t love the other people in our lives as they should be loved all by ourselves.  Take any good thing and put it in that formula: whatever it is, we can’t do it all by ourselves.

And we shouldn’t.  But what we should do is stop doing things that way as if that was ever going to work.

So over the past several Sundays, we have been seeing a lot of one of my favorite characters in the Gospel, and that is Saint Peter.  Just three weeks ago, the Apostles were out in a boat, and Jesus came to them on the water.  Saint Peter asked our Lord to command him to come to him on the water, and he did, and we all know how that went.  Then last week, Jesus was quizzing the Apostles about who people said that he was.  Peter was the one who spoke up and professed that Jesus was the Christ, the coming Anointed One, and Jesus proclaimed Peter the Rock on which he would build the Church.

And here we are today, just a couple of verses later in Matthew’s Gospel, and Peter is in the spotlight again, but this time for a far different reason!  So, for context, it’s important to realize that Saint Peter, like all of the Jews of that time, had a preconceived notion about what the Messiah would be like, and what he would come to do.  The Messiah was to be a great king and military leader, championing the people and overcoming their enemies, giving them political and military peace and safety.  That’s how people thought about the Messiah in those days.  Peter was still clinging to those old notions, and so he could not fathom that Jesus would have to suffer and die.  And so Jesus chastises him for thinking not as God does, but as people do.  It’s a mistake we all make time and again in our spiritual lives.

Peter’s faith journey was like that: up one minute, and down the next.  One minute he’s walking on water, the next he’s drowning; one minute he speaks eloquently of his Lord, and the next he’s the voice of temptation.  So maybe it seems like Saint Peter, flawed as he was, was an inappropriate choice to be the pillar of the Church, the first of the Popes.  But our Lord never makes any mistakes.  He chooses who he chooses for a reason, and I think that’s what we have to spend some time looking at today.

If Peter was unqualified for the position to which he was called – and it certainly seems like that was the case – then we have to expect to feel unqualified for the roles to which we have been called.  Parents often feel that way when they start to raise their first child.  Priests feel that every time they witness something incredible – which is a lot of the time.  We are all unqualified, but God sees more in us, he sees our heart, he sees who he created us to be, and he won’t rest until we’ve fulfilled that potential.  It’s often said that God doesn’t call the qualified, but instead qualifies those he has called.  If that’s true, then Saint Peter is the patron saint of that!

If Peter made some mistakes along his journey of faith and discipleship – and he clearly did – then we have to expect that we will make mistakes in our own faith journey.  One minute we’ll have a glimpse of God and we’ll feel like we could never let him down, then the next minute we’ll fall into sin, maybe a sin we’ve been struggling with for so long, and we’ll feel like God couldn’t possibly still love us.  But he loved Peter all through the good and bad, and he loves us, no matter what.  He pulled Saint Peter out of the stormy waves, and he will reach out and pull us out of our own storms of failure, as often as we cry out to him.

The one thing you can’t fault Saint Peter for is his courage.  Eleven other guys stayed in the boat, but Peter wanted to be where our Lord was: out on the water.  Eleven other guys kept their mouth shut when Jesus asked who they said he was, but Peter did his best to make a profession of faith.  Even what he said in today’s Gospel was probably what the rest were all thinking, but he at least had the guts to say it out loud.  His life wasn’t perfect, his discipleship wasn’t perfect, his faith had a long way to go, but he knew that he couldn’t leave our Lord forever.  Even when he blows it in the hours before Jesus died and denies our Lord three times, he accepts our Lord’s forgiveness and fulfills the role Jesus gave him in last week’s Gospel.

Saint Peter’s story kept being written all throughout the Gospel narrative, and our story isn’t finished yet either.  Our Lord loved Saint Peter and he loves us too.  What we have to do is rely on that love, accept God’s forgiveness, and get out of the boat and go to Jesus.  We have to stop thinking like people do, and start thinking with the mind of Christ.  We have to stop trying to do good things in our lives all by ourselves and start doing them with the grace and power of Christ that can accomplish anything in anyone.

He can make a lousy fisherman the rock on which he would build his Church.  He can do great things in us too.  If we let him.

Categories
Homilies

Liturgy of Remembrance: Plainfield Tornado

Today’s readings: 2 Corinthians 4:14-5:1 | Psalm 23 | Mark 4:35-41

It’s easy to understand how the disciples on the boat were worried, even panicking.  They’re in a boat, in the middle of the sea, and it’s a dark night, and a storm whips up, and their beloved leader is sleeping.  One wonders how he could sleep so soundly in the midst of the storm!  

Our life is full of storms.  Some of them are minor things, but others have a lasting impact.  Some of them merely give rain to the fields, some of them bring destruction.  In our area, this was never more evident than thirty years ago this afternoon, when an F-5 tornado tore through sections of our area, destroying the high school one day before it was to be filled with students on their first day of school, and, of course, destroying Saint Mary Immaculate Church, taking the lives of 29 people, and injuring many others.

I wasn’t living in Plainfield at the time, but I remember hearing about it because one of my good friends, Paul Sirvatka, chased the tornado, and had video of the beginning of the storm.  Hearing the news that day was surreal; nothing that devastating had ever happened in our area before, and the tales of the destruction were heartbreaking.  

So many storms, of various types, have happened since, including this year.  We are still living with the very destructive storm of COVID-19, and with the storms of social unrest caused by more and more reports of racial injustice.  And, of course, we can’t forget the much smaller, F-1 tornado, that was part of the “Derecho” storm a couple of weeks ago.  We could also add the storms of our own lives: the illness and death of loved ones, employment insecurity, family troubles.  It seems like there’s almost always a storm or two brewing in the atmosphere of our lives.

In all these storms, it’s human nature to ask whys our loving God allow such destruction?  We will never know the answer to that fully because we can’t see the big picture that God sees.  But we believe that our faithful Lord is with us in the storm.  Whatever it is that is pounding against our boat is no match for our God who is with us in whatever way He knows is best for us.  It doesn’t mean he’s going to wave a magic wand and make all of our troubles go away, but it does mean that we don’t ever have to go through anything alone.

Several years ago, there was a contemporary Christian song called “Sometimes He Calms the Storm” and the lyrics of the song have given me peace in my stormy times.  Here are some of them:

Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will

Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child.

We don’t know, any more than those disciples did, why the storms in our life come up.  They may be remnants of the evil unleashed by original sin, or even the direct sin of people.  Sometimes God prevents them from harming us; other times he prevents us from something that would have been more harmful.  But whatever happens, we are never alone, and our God is there to be with us, steadying us, guiding us, giving us the grace to get through it and be of help to others, with strength we never knew we had.Whether the storm needs to hear it, or we do, Jesus says in the midst of it all: “Quiet! Be still.”  Sometimes he calms the storm, and other times he calms His child.  

Categories
Homilies Saints

Saint Monica

I hope we all know someone in our lives that is a fervent, persistent prayer warrior.  Because we all need people like that who pray for us, especially in bad or trying times.  We very likely have some people like that here in church today.  I know that the persistent prayer warriors in my life are largely responsible for my vocation, and I’m very grateful to them for that.  So for all the prayer warriors out there, today is the memorial of their patron saint, Saint Monica.  Saint Monica was a woman in love with God and the Church, and her family, although the latter was pretty difficult for her.  But her persistent prayer won them for Christ and the Church.

Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after having been baptized.

Monica’s oldest son was Augustine. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy and was living a rather immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine probably would have liked!

Augustine, followed by his mother, eventually traveled to Rome and then Milan, where he came under the influence of the bishop, Saint Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. There Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste.

She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. On Easter, in the year 387, Saint Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death.

Monica was a woman who accomplished much by her persistent prayer. It might be well for us today to ask for a portion of her spirit of prayer that we might accomplish God’s glory in our own time and place.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

Tuesday of the Twenty-first Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Pay attention.  Keep your eye on the ball.  Don’t ignore the forest for the trees.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.  However you want to say it, our Liturgy of the Word today is asking us, as it often, rightly, does, to get things right and stay in the game.

In our first reading today, Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians not to freak out if they hear about the second coming of Christ. Rather, they should be in the moment and live as they have been taught and formed in the Gospel that Saint Paul preached to them. They need to pay attention to what is going on in front of them, to be attentive to what the Gospel calls them to do, and trust that if the Lord comes in glory, he will find them doing his will and gather them to himself.  That’s the best possible way to enter eternity!  No need to scramble around in fear of what is to come.  When it comes, it comes, so let us pray that on that great day, God meets us doing what we’re supposed to be doing.

Jesus today scolds the scribes and Pharisees, as he often does, about paying more attention to the minute bits of the law than they do to really doing God’s will. They are so caught up in the ritual cleansing of bowls and cups that they cannot attend to the purification of their own hearts. And that, Jesus tells them, is a complete disaster. Their blindness will eventually leave them out of salvation’s reach.  And we can be that way too sometimes, can’t we?  Sometimes we get so caught up on the little things that we miss what is truly important, and that can be a disaster. 

And so we too are called today to pay attention, to keep our eye on the ball.  We need to be attentive to the needs of those around us, to reach out to the oppressed and forgotten, to always be mindful of the poor, to stand up for human life, to feed the hungry and take care of the sick – in short, we are to live the Gospel faithfully.  We shouldn’t be caught up in details, nor should we be overly concerned about when the Lord will return.  We can’t have our head in the clouds nor in the sand.  We must be attentive to what’s in front of us, the opportunity to live the Gospel faithfully.

Categories
Homilies Saints

Saint Bartholomew, Apostle

Today’s readings

Today we celebrate the feast of a Saint Bartholomew the Apostle, who is referred to in the a Gospel reading we just heard, as Nathanael.  Nathanael – or Bartholomew, take your pick – is singled out of the crowd by Jesus. Nathanael is surprised at what Jesus says about him: “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” We should recall that Jesus considered it his primary mission to seek out the lost children of Israel, so seeing Nathanael as a “true child of Israel” with “no duplicity in him” means that Jesus considered Nathanael a role model for his people. He was one whose faith reached beyond mere observance of the Law or the Torah, and extended into the realm of living the Gospel. This was what Jesus came to call people to do.

And that call wasn’t just for the people of that time. That’s where we are all led, of course. When it comes down to it, there is nothing more important than living the Gospel, and every one of us is called to do it. If our spiritual life is not our primary concern, then we have no eternity; nothing to look forward to. We can’t accept duplicity in ourselves if we want to go to heaven. But the good news is that our Lord has given us hope of eternal life, and we hear of that by the intercession and example and preaching of the Apostles and especially Saint Bartholomew today.

As the Psalmist sings today, “Your friends make known, O Lord, the glorious splendor of your Kingdom.” Praise God for such faithful witnesses as Bartholomew, who help us to single-mindedly follow the call of the Gospel.

Categories
Homilies Jesus Christ Ordinary Time

The Twenty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

One of my jobs before I went to seminary was in the sales department of a computer supply company.  In that job, they taught us that one of the first good rules of sales was never to ask a question to which you didn’t already know the answer.  I think teachers get taught that principle as well.  I can’t help but think that Jesus’ question to the disciples in today’s Gospel falls under that heading.  Because Jesus certainly knew who he was.  But, as often happens in our interactions with Jesus, there’s something more going on.  And to figure out what that something more is, all you have to do is go back to the Gospels the last couple of weeks and see in them that Jesus is looking for people’s faith.  He was looking for faith from Peter when he called him to walk on the water.  He was impressed by the faith of the Canaanite woman last week as she persisted in her request that Jesus heal her daughter.  And now he queries the disciples’ faith – and ours too – as he asks us the 64 thousand dollar question: “Who do you say that I am?”

He actually starts with kind of a soft-ball question. “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they recount all the obvious and probably much-discussed options of the time.  If there were bloggers and influencers and talk radio people and cable news in that first century, they too might have said “John the Baptist” or “Elijah” or “Jeremiah” or “one of the prophets.”  So this is an easy question for the disciples to answer.  But when he gets to the lightning round question, “But who do you say that I am?” there’s a lot more silence.  And, as often happens with the disciples, it’s the impetuous Peter who blurts out the right answer, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  Very good, Peter, you have been paying attention.

But here’s the thing: that answer is going to require much of Saint Peter.  You see, his answer not just a liturgical formula or a scriptural title or even a profession of faith in the formal sense.  Jesus is looking for something that goes quite a bit deeper, something that comes from the heart, something integrated into Peter’s life.  He is looking for faith, not just spoken, but faith lived, and that’s why Peter’s answer is actually pretty dangerous.  If he is really convinced that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” then that conviction has to show itself in the way Peter lives.  He can’t just believe that and keep it under his hat.  If Jesus really is the One who is coming into the world, the Promised One of all generations, the salvation of the world, then Peter has to proclaim it from the rooftops.  Now, to be fair, we should note that Peter had a little problem with this around the time of the crucifixion, when he denied Jesus not just once, but three times.  But that’s not going to be his everlasting reality, because Peter has to be the rock on which Jesus will build his Church.  Whether people want to accept that or not.

So I’m very sorry to tell you all this, but we have all gathered here on a very dangerous Sunday.  We too, you know, are being asked today, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Jesus isn’t asking us just to recite the Creed, the Profession of Faith.  That’s too easy; we do it all the time.  Half the time it just flies past us by the time we say “Amen.”  Jesus doesn’t want to know what you learned at Bible Study or what you read on Facebook.  Those things are nice, but He isn’t going for what’s in your head.  Jesus is calling all of us today to dig deep, to really say what it is that we believe about him by the way that we act and the things that we do and the life that we live.  It’s a dangerous question for us, too, because what we believe about Jesus has to show forth in action and not just word.  Our life has to be a testament to our faith in God.  And if we cannot answer that question out of our faith today, if we are not prepared to live the consequences of our belief, then we have a lot of thinking to do.

Because if we really believe – really believe – that Jesus is who he says he is, then we cannot just sit on the news.  Like Peter, we are going to have to proclaim it in word and deed.  In our homes, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our communities – we must be certain that everyone knows that we are Christians and that we are ready to live our faith.  That doesn’t mean that we need to interject a faith lesson into every conversation or bludgeon people with the Gospel.  But it does mean that we have to live that Gospel.  In St. Francis’s words, “Proclaim the Gospel at all times.  If necessary, use words.”  People absolutely need to be able to tell by noticing the way we live our lives that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  If they can’t, then our faith is as tepid as the Pharisees’ and that’s certainly no cause for pride!  Frankly, that too has consequences.

Every part of our Liturgy has consequences for us believers.  “The Body of Christ.”  When we hear that proclamation and respond with our “Amen,” we are saying “yes, that’s what I believe.”  And if we believe that, if we are then filled with the Body of Christ by receiving Holy Communion, then we have made a statement that has consequences.  If we truly become what we receive, then how does that change the way that we work, the way that we interact with others?  “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.”  “Thanks be to God.”  If we accept that command, then what?  What does it mean to glorify the Lord with our life?  Does it mean that we just do some kind of ministry here at Mass?  Absolutely not.  The first word in the command is “Go” and that means we have to glorify the Lord in our daily lives, in our business negotiations, in our community meetings, in our interactions with peers or the way that we mentor those who work for us.

So if we really believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, then our lives just became a whole lot more complicated.  We may have to give up some of our habits and vices, we may have to make a concerted effort to be more aware of Christ in our daily lives, we may have to learn to treat other people as the Body of Christ.  We may have to do all this preaching in a hostile environment, because sometimes people don’t want to hear the Good News, or even be in the presence of it.  I think that’s more true today than every.  The Gospel is met with hostility just because Christians preach it.  And this is dangerous, because if we really believe, then we have to preach anyway.  Peter did, and it eventually led him to the cross.  What will it require of us?

So I don’t know just how dangerous this will be for me or for you.  I’m not even sure how we will all answer the question right now.  But one thing is for sure, all of us sitting here today have the same one-question test that Peter and the disciples had.  Who do you say that the Son of Man is?  Be sure to take that to your prayer this week.

Categories
Holy Spirit Homilies

Mass of the Holy Spirit

Today, we celebrated a Mass of the Holy Spirit as we begin our school year.

Today’s readings

I’m so glad to welcome all of our students back to school this year!  It’s wonderful to see your faces again, at least from the mask up!  We missed you so much for the last six months.  I was able to walk around the school a bit yesterday, and was so proud of you to see that you’re following all the safety rules we have.  I know it’s a lot, but better that we be safe and still be together.

Today, we are celebrating a Mass of the Holy Spirit to ask the Holy Spirit to be with us during this school year.  As we begin our school year together, we want to pray to the Holy Spirit so that he will give us whatever gifts we need to learn well (or, for the teachers, to teach well), to use our gifts in service to others, and to grow in our relationship with God.  We want to thank the Holy Spirit for those gifts, and promise to use them for our good and the good of the other people he puts in our lives.  And we should always thank God for those wonderful gifts, because they make us better, happier people and using them makes our world a better place.

Today for our Mass of the Holy Spirit, we couldn’t have better readings!  I love the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel.  There is nothing more lifeless than a pile of dry bones.  But when Ezekiel speaks God’s word to them, they are filled with the Holy Spirit and come to life.  That sometimes happens in our lives.  Things going on around us make us feel like a pile of dry bones.  But when we hear God’s word, we are filled with the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit helps us to know and experience how much God loves us, and that fills us with life.  When we are filled with life and with the Holy Spirit, we can’t help but spread that to others.  Maybe we are the ones God wants to use to help other people know that he loves them too.

In our Gospel reading, the Pharisees are giving Jesus a religion test.  Just to give you some background, the Jewish people had over 600 laws in the scriptures, and they were required to know them and study them.  So one of them asks Jesus which of those 600 laws was most important.  That’s a question that the Pharisees discussed – and argued about – all the time.  Jesus tells them the most important law of all is to love the Lord God with all their heart, soul and mind.  And then he goes for extra credit: he says the second important law is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you notice what’s common in both of those?  It’s love, right?  Love God and love your neighbor.  Jesus says all of the law and prophets – which is really saying all of the scriptures – depend on those two commandments.  It’s all about love, and that makes total sense because God is love.  God created us in love and loves us so much that he wants to have all of us come to heaven and be part of his life one day.  That’s what we are all supposed to be longing for.  If we want to be happy forever, we need to make sure we go to heaven.  If we want to go to heaven, we have to do what God does: and that is love.  Love God who loves us, and then love our neighbor.  If we do these things, we will be happy with God forever.  That’s good news!

So as we begin our school year together, we pray that the Holy Spirit would help us to learn and grow, but especially that he would help us to love God and love our neighbor, which is really saying love every person he puts in our path.  So I think we should pray to the Holy Spirit for that gift today.  I know a lot of you know the prayer to the Holy Spirit, so if you do, pray it along with me:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

Categories
Homilies Saints

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Abbot and Doctor of the Church

Today’s readings

Learning to follow the path of perfection is the most important goal of the spiritual life.  How do we get our relationship with God right so that we can live with him forever in heaven?  That was certainly the goal of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, whose feast we celebrate today.

In the year 1111, at the age of 20, Bernard left his home to join the monastic community of Citeaux.  His five brothers, two uncles and around 30 of his friends followed him into the monastery.  Within four years, that monastic community, which had been dying, had recovered enough vitality to establish a new house in the nearby valley of Wormwoods, with Bernard as abbot.  The zealous young man was quite demanding, particularly on himself.  A minor health problem, though, taught him to be more patient and understanding.  The valley was soon renamed Clairvaux, the valley of light.

Bernard’s strong support of the Roman See was well known; in fact it was Bernard who intervened in a full-blown schism and settled it in favor of the Roman pontiff against the antipope.  The Holy See then prevailed on Bernard to preach the Second Crusade throughout Europe.  His eloquence was so overwhelming that a great army was assembled and the success of the crusade seemed assured.  The motives of the men and their leaders, however, were not as pure as those of Abbot Bernard, and the project ended as a complete military and moral disaster.  Bernard felt responsible in some way for the degenerative effects of the crusade.  This heavy burden possibly hastened his death, which came on August 20, 1153.

In our Gospel reading today, people are invited to a wedding feast, symbolic of the heavenly banquet. No one comes, with varying responses: some are off to work now, can’t come, others just ignore it, still others murder the messengers. Just like people treated the prophets. Others were invited to the feast, but one was unprepared, refusing to wear a wedding garment. We are those invited to the banquet now. Saint Bernard would have us follow the path of the spiritual life to get there. May we who have his desire for the wedding feast benefit from his intercession.

Categories
Homilies Ordinary Time

The Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today’s Gospel is a very interesting one.  And I say that in the sense that it is often the kind of Gospel reading that gets people riled up.  Because we can probably agree that this vignette portrays Jesus in a rather unflattering light.  Was he really going to snub this poor woman’s request?  Was he really going to let the child be tormented by a demon?

I actually think that this is a good day on which to grapple with this Gospel and the issue of faith it brings up, because today, we have the great privilege of initiating these, our brothers and sisters, into the faith.  Over the past many months, they have been preparing for initiation by studying the faith and praying for God’s mercy.  Today, we have the great joy of seeing them baptized, confirmed, and receiving their first Eucharist.  This was supposed to have happened at the Easter Vigil this year, but a pandemic delayed the joy.  But even a pandemic is no match for God’s mercy, today we will fulfill for them the promise that God calls us all to be part of his Church, and members of Christ’s body.  

So first of all, let’s just agree that Jesus was always going to help the Canaanite woman’s daughter.  Probably even before the Canaanite woman asked.  He’s God, after all, and he knows our needs.  He always wants the best for the ones he has created.  So some might tell you that this whole interaction was just to test the woman.  Well, that might be comforting if you love a God who has nothing better to do than test us and make us dance for him.  But that’s not our God.

Instead, I think he wanted the Canaanite woman’s faith to be noted by the people looking on, including the disciples, and perhaps even by the woman herself.  Probably the only one who was sure of the woman’s faith in this story was Jesus.  Now, the Canaanites were a people that were presumed to be faithless and have no claim on the grace and mercy of God (as if any of us do!).  The Canaanites were the inhabitants of the Promised Land, which was given to the Israelites after being led out of Egypt by Moses.  So the disdain for them was long-standing by this point.

But Jesus notes her faith as opposed to the faith noted elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel.  In just a couple of chapters from now, Jesus will berate the “faithless generation” that included the scribes and Pharisees.  And just last week, Jesus chastised Peter for being “of little faith” when he pulled him up out of the water.  Contrast that with what he says about the Canaanite woman: “O woman, great is your faith!”

All of this begs the question for us: where are we on the journey of faith?  For most of us, it probably depends on the day.  But are we bold enough of faith to implore God’s mercy when we have no claim on it?  When our sins have been dragging us down and we’ve been committing the same ones over and over?  When we aren’t where we think we should be in our lives?  When we feel like we’ve disappointed almost everyone?  When we’ve disappointed ourselves?

In those moments, are we of enough faith to call on the Lord and implore his mercy?  Because if we are, God is ready to answer us.