Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Witnesses of the Sacredness of Life"
Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
August 14, 2011
Year A

In our Gospel reading today we hear of the Canannite woman’s plea for Jesus’ help. The Greek term translated to English says she “called out” but it could literally be translated as ‘screamed.’ For her it was a cry of desperation. And we might think that Jesus is, at first, could to her by being unresponsive. This doesn’t stop her at all, she calls out all the more – much to the annoyance of the disciples: “send her away.” Finally, Jesus utters a response: “I was sent only to lost sheep of the House of Israel.” Again, she persists – “please, Lord, help me.” And Jesus once again responds in a manner that we may think to be rather rude: “it is not right to give the food of the children to dogs.” But she continues to persist because she believes that He can heal her daughter. She calls out to Him and approaches Him not as one seeking something for herself, not as one who wishes to trap Him or get Him to prove His divinity, no, she approaches Jesus as one who believes in Him and in His divine power to heal. And so she responds again: “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.

The encounter between Jesus and the woman teaches us a few important things regarding our approach to our lives of faith. The first lesson in the response Jesus gives to the woman. As I said, it may seem like He is being rude or rather uncouth toward her. Quite the contrary, He is simply stating that which is true – “I was sent to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.” Therefore, what He says is just and true. Always, the justice of God is compatible with His truth. But her humility, her faith moves Him to compassion. The message that He sends is that even though it was just for Him to respond in such a way, His mercy, His compassion for the woman – because she believes – triumphs over that justice. She teaches us that in an act of humble submission to God, an act of faith (which takes perseverance and growth in the virtue of fortitude) – primarily through the Sacrament of Penance – the Divine Compassion and Mercy of God will be extended to us as well.

The second lesson lies in the way the disciples respond to this woman. To them, she is an annoyance. “Send her away, for she keeps calling after us.” As if to say: ‘we cannot be bothered by her, so give her what she wants so that we can be on our way.’ How often does it happen that we respond to people in a similar fashion? How often do we say to ourselves, “I cannot be bothered by this or that person, so I will just do what they ask and be on my way”? This encounter in Matthew’s Gospel manifests a stark contrast between our notion of compassion and the compassion and mercy of God. By simply submitting to one’s wishes in order to rid of them is not compassion at all. But Jesus shows us while it may be true that He was not sent to her people – who were considered to be foreigners – she appeals to His divine compassion and His heart was moved by her persistence and by her faith. Thus He shows us that His mercy, while compatible with His justice and truth, triumphs, love triumphs. The disciples view her as an annoyance, as a hindrance to their journey but Jesus sees her heart, He sees the sacredness of her person.

This is how He looks upon us – He sees our hearts and knows our faith, He sees the sacredness of who we are as human beings. So we must have the same outlook toward our brothers and sisters – to all those in need and to the beauty and sanctity of life itself. We are called, then, in our Christian lives to live this compassion, to embody it, to witness by our words and actions to the sacredness of human life. And we are able to do so through the means which God gives to us – namely, by pursuing and practicing virtue, particularly the virtue of charity, by participating in the sacraments of the Church – especially that of the Eucharist and Confession – in which Christ dispenses to us His divine life, the grace to live in communion with Him so as to be formed in His image and truly live as His disciples, as His followers. For Christ, by so desiring our own sanctity, gives us the grace to witness to the sacredness of life by these means.

Let us pray then, that we may have an increase in the gift of the virtue of fortitude in order to be able to witness in our lives to the sacredness of life – the life that Christ desires for us all.



Fr. Jon Reardon


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.




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