God is about openness and welcome.

08-20-2017Pastoral ReflectionsFather Brian Manning

This weekend's scriptural passages makes it very clear to us that we all are "strangers" who are indebted for our "chosen-ness" to God's openness and all-inclusive love Indeed God calls all of us and we are exclusive to Him. By our every being, we are not exclusive and better than other people

The reading from Isaiah reminds us about "insiders" and "outsiders." It reminds us that sal­vation is not based on membership in a chosen club or people, but instead depends on a person's attitude of faith. Anyone and everyone who embraces the faith of Israel will receive the salvation God has promised. God does not exclude. God is all about openness and welcome. God's house is indeed called "a house of prayer for all peoples."

Our Gospel selection is of the Canaanite woman who is in fact the ultimate "outsider." In a sense she threatens everyone in three ways: she is a non-Jew; she is a Canaanite enemy; and she is also a woman. Perhaps even worse, she is also very bold. Remember her plight: her much loved daughter is suffering, troubled and beset by a demon. The woman clearly recognizes that Jesus is Lord, Son of David, so she quite boldly calls upon him to cure her child. Notice that Je­sus not respond. However, the woman does get a great rise out of Jesus' disciples. Surprisingly they don't feel pity for her, only embarrassment because of her. Quite sadly, they asked Jesus to get rid of her. Jesus proceeds to do just that. He tells the woman that his mission is to the lost sheep of Israel alone. The woman, however, is persistent. Jesus becomes more blunt, even insult­ing. She brushes off the insult and says that she'll take what she can get. We know Jesus cannot and will not refuse such faith. He heals her daughter.

We can misinterpret the words of Jesus in his interplay with the woman. It is not sarcasm or meanness in action, but instead it is then cultural dialogue of matching wits. Notice how Jesus tosses off a maxim to the woman and she immediately turns it around on him to her own ad­vantage. He acknowledges her wisdom and praises her faith.

Matthew uses this event to explain how Jesus' mission of salvation is not small. The Gos­pel writer wants to make it abundantly clear that Jesus' mission extends beyond the house of Isra­el to the ends of the earth and to all its people. More importantly, Matthew wants us to understand that membership in the chosen people is neither enough nor essential. What is enough? One must have active faith.

Oftentimes we all belong to a group that we are not active in. Matthew makes clear to us in his gospel writing that saying "I believe" without the work and activity of believing does not suf­fice. To believe, according to Matthew, is to do. We know how many people talk and talk and never get around to doing anything. The words of faith repeated many times do not make some­one a believer. It is only in living out the faith in daily life are we "true believers."

Feast of Rocco

Because this goes to the printers so soon after St. Rocco and must be prepared in advance, the thanks expressed in these few words are still most sincerely offered by me. I know how hard many people work for this great Parish and Town event. I know the sacrifice many make. To one and to all, I say a loud and cheering "thank you" for your gracious work.