Two-Minute Homily by Dcn Chad Hargrave for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023.
“We must, as Isaiah says, “have a care for justice and act with integrity”, seeing the other as a person made in God’s image just as we are, no matter what barriers of culture or identity separate us.”
- Two-Minute Homily Transcript
Two-Minute Homily TranscriptAuthor: Archdiocese of Brisbane
Is Jesus prejudiced? We almost can’t help asking this question when we read today’s Gospel. Especially his comparison between the Jews as children and the Canaanites as dogs. Well in one sense the answer is, surprisingly, yes. We are all prejudiced. I mean that we all belong to a group or a people, and therefore we all have a sense of “the other”, people who aren’t part of our own group. We can’t help it, that’s just part of the human experience. And it seems that Jesus, being truly human, experienced this condition too. He did not come into the world as a universal man. No, he was born into a particular culture, a specific world-view, because belonging to a specific place and time is part of the universal human experience. This isn’t sinful or wrong, it’s simply part of the package of being a finite, limited human being.
Strangely, then, Jesus gives us permission to accept honestly the reality of our limited, even prejudiced, worldview because he himself shared that experience. But, and this is an important but. It is only permission to accept this reality as a starting point. Jesus will not allow us to remain there, and this Gospel shows us the pathway beyond that limited worldview. Thus in Jesus’ dialogue with the woman, his compassion for her situation is balanced against his sense of mission “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Through his words, and her courageous responses, Jesus then draws out the full implications of that mission, which will transcend the boundaries of the house of Israel. Who are the lost sheep? In the fullest sense of the word, it is clear that the lost sheep includes everyone, the whole animal kingdom, if you will, even the humble house-dogs. Which is good news indeed, because we are all lost sheep, also.
Paul’s message to the ‘pagans’ in Romans identifies any of us who are not Jewish as ‘the other’ upon whom God has showered his mercy. And if we are to receive this mercy then we too must move beyond our prejudices. We must, as Isaiah says, “have a care for justice and act with integrity”, seeing the other as a person made in God’s image just as we are, no matter what barriers of culture or identity separate us. So please remember this the next time that you’re tempted to reject someone for being different, for being ‘the other’. Remember that the Church is God’s house, and God’s house “is a house of prayer for all the peoples”.