The Twentietth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 16, 2020

“We Proclaim Mercy!”

Isaiah 56:1-7/Psalm 67/Romans11:25-32/Matthew 15:21-28

 

Bishop Ariel P. Santos

 

 

Ordinary Time in other traditions is Kingdom-tide.  We have been hearing of portrayals of what the kingdom of God is about in the gospels – in parables, in stories, in Jesus’s examples and demonstrations of the Spirit, the power and the way it is in the kingdom of our God.  

 

God, in His kingdom, is merciful to all.  He created all; He gives life to all; and He is in the business of making all things new and restoring them.  In Romans11:32, it says, “God has found everyone guilty of not obeying Him. So now He can have mercy on everyone.”   It seems like it is God who is active in taking over our free will.  No, it is us who disobey and He simply acknowledges our disobedience.  It is not our doing; we choose what we do.  In one translation of Romans 11:32, it says, “He allowed people to disobey so He can have mercy to all.”  Another says, “He considers all men prisoners of their own unbelief, so He can have mercy on all.”   Romans 3: 22-23 says there is no difference for all have sinned and all fall short of the glory of God.  All need His mercy and He gives it so all.  All need grace, mercy, saving; no one is so special that they merited grace and mercy.  It is God who chooses to give mercy.  

 

God has chosen Israel to be an instrument.  He did not choose exclusively; but initially, Israel was to be the first - to be pioneers.   They are not the only ones; they are the starting point to be used to spread God’s mercy to all so that all may be saved.  Isaiah 56:6-7 says that all foreigners will be welcomed to the house of God because His house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.  The Gentiles also will be restored.  In Isaiah 2:2-4, an eschatological vision (where all things will conclude) is that all will head for restoration.  Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father and He won’t come back until the restoration of all things.  All will leave their mountains and they will go to Zion, the chief of the mountains, and they will learn of God’s ways of peace and righteousness.

 

The ultimate purpose of God is restoration, not segregation; universal solidarity, not tribal exclusivity.  It is not just a chosen few to the exclusion of others, but His purpose is to restore ALL things. Jesus said, “Of all that the Father has given Me, I lose nothing. I will raise it up on the last day, every one of them.”   God unites, not divides; God restores, not destroys.  Destruction is the work of the enemy. 

 

Israel was chosen first.  In the parable of the vineyard, some were chosen earlier and others later in the day, but they all received the same wage – one denarius.  It was fair to all.  The lesson for us is not to be bitter and to be envious of others. Understand the blessing of God.  Many want only a fraction or crumbs of what we have as God’s people. Do not be ungrateful.  Hebrews 11:40 says, “No one will receive God’s promise apart from the rest. All of us, like the vineyard workers, will be called at the end of the day and will be given a blessing which is more than enough and more than fair.  Some complain; some are grateful.  Let us remember that we are a Eucharistic people that are always thankful.  Always count our blessings because they always far outweigh and far outnumber the things that we complain about.  How do we know this?  This is because God is more than enough. He is gracious to all – the righteous and the evil alike.  

 

Israel was chosen first so that they can be an instrument to save the whole world.  Man, the crowning glory of all creation, was chosen by God to rule over the works of His hand and he was blessed.  He fell and God restored and saved him by sending Jesus Christ.  What does creation wait for?  The rest of creation waits for the manifestation of the full blessings and the glory of the sons of God because they will also follow.  

 

Jesus did not just die for man.  Jesus died for the cosmos.  Jesus so loved the world – God’s whole creation where man was a big part of it.  God uses us, as rulers on earth, to also bless creation.  In Genesis 2:5, we were called to serve creation.  Creation is waiting for us to resume serving them not abusing them.  Romans 8:9 says that creation eagerly awaits for the manifestation and the restoration of the sons of God.  In one translation, it says, “Creation longs to be set free from its bondage to decay and would enjoy the freedom accompanying the glory that God’s children will have.”

 

Escapist mentality is wrong. There may be Christians who believe in the rapture mentality (we will be taken out of this world because it will be become worse) which is wrong. We are placed here and restored so that we can participate in the restoration of all things.  We are staying here; we are not leaving for we are restoring.  Humanity was chosen as pioneers to participate in the restoration of all things.  It is to do justice where things will be restored to its original.  

 

God does not discard, God restores and renews.  When we die, we will not be discarded and we will be given a renewed body because we are soul and body as human beings.  Contrary to what we believe that our destination is to be all spirit without a body, in the Creed we say that we believe in the resurrection of the body because human beings are soul and flesh.  God will restore us and we will have His image and likeness.  From the song “Spirit of God Within Me,” we say, “Strive till that image Adam lost, new, minted and restored.”  

 

All have sinned and all need restoration. God will restore all things and He will renew the face of the earth.  He will not replace it so much so that if the earth is destroyed, we will be moving to Mars.  God’s work is forever.  Maybe it has been tarnished or compromised but not permanently because God is everlasting.

 

In the gospel, we are challenged and reminded not to take the privilege of being chosen first for granted. We are challenged to always give thanks.  We are thankful all the time.  Count our blessings! Sometimes, as children, we tend to be spoiled and to be ungrateful, and therefore not learning from the blessings.  Matthew used the word Canaanite to name the woman in the gospel. It is an old name for the despicable oppressors of Israel.  They have a hateful image for they are a corrupt people.  Matthew shows that the woman is an enemy.  When Jesus heard her cry for her daughter who was demon-possessed, Jesus was just silent. I am sure that you can identify with this that when we pray, we feel like God ignores us, that He is silent, and He does not answer our prayer.   

 

Ironically, this Canaanite woman called Jesus by His proper titles:  Lord, Son of God.  She knew this and the Israelites did not even recognize this.  Jesus’ own disciples were still struggling that indeed He was the Son of God.  The woman was a foreigner and she knew God and she endured the silent treatment and the insult.  Jesus seemingly insulted her by telling her, “I was not sent to save you but to save the lost sheep of Israel.  It is not good for Me to give the bread that is the children’s to the dogs.”  She was put down, but her faith was great and she persisted. At that, Jesus said, “Your faith is great, woman.”  The Greek word for great is ‘mega’.   Ironically again, Jesus was told by Peter, “O you, of little faith.”  Peter was the first leader of the Church, the first Pope, and yet he was told that his faith was little.  The woman was a foreigner, supposedly an enemy, and yet Jesus praised her great faith.

 

May this be a challenge and an awakening to us to realize the blessings we have.  The Canaanite woman obviously knew the kingdom parables.  She knew of God’s power and ability that He is more than enough.  Sometimes, the reason we ask for more and more for ourselves is because we lack understanding that God is more than enough.  St. Paul said that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places.  St. Peter said that God has given to us everything pertaining to life and godliness. God has withheld nothing.  God have His Son’s life so what more can He give? He is more than enough.  The woman knew of God’s plan of universal redemption and she asks for a taste of the eventual plan for now.  This is our calling – we take from the ‘life of the world to come’ and we bring it now to hasten the coming of the Kingdom.

 

The fullness that is still to come we live it now.  We have the “crumbs” now from this fullness. May we be thankful and may we participate in the life of the Church so that we can have faith.  Faith comes from hearing and participating and giving thanks in the Eucharist.  Life is built up so that we can also be grateful.  Great is our God!  He is more than enough!  His mercy is on all and He gives grace to all and He wants us to participate in these for this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.

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