HOMILY FOR THE 20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A.
THEME: IGNORED. NOT FORSAKEN.
BY: Fr. Gerald M. MUSA.
Once upon a time, in a small village nestled between rolling hills, lived a man named Samuel. Samuel was known throughout the village for his strong faith and unwavering dedication to prayer. He believed that prayers held the power to bring about change, and he prayed consistently, and silently, at home, at work and before the Blessed Sacrament in Church. One year, a severe sickness afflicted the wife. The sickness ravaged her body, and they went to different hospitals in search of healing. Samuel, deeply concerned for her health condition remained steadfast in his prayer. Every morning and evening, he would kneel down to pray, his heart full of hope as he beseeched the heavens to send relief. Days turned into weeks, and still, no healing came. Samuel’s prayers seemed to go unanswered. Doubt began to creep into his mind as he saw the suffering of his wife. She was growing weaker, and the situation was becoming dire. Samuel’s faith wavered, and he questioned why his prayers were seemingly being ignored. One morning, as Samuel knelt before the Blessed Sacrament with a heavy heart, a stranger approached him. The stranger had been traveling through the region and had heard of Samuel’s dedication to prayer. He sat down beside Samuel and struck up a conversation. Samuel shared his concerns about the condition of his wife and how his prayers had gone unanswered. The stranger listened intently, nodding empathetically. He then shared a story from his own life about a time when he had faced a seemingly insurmountable challenge. He explained how, in his desperation, he had also prayed fervently for a solution, but it hadn’t come in the way he expected. “The answers to our prayers,” the stranger said, “often come in ways we can’t foresee. Sometimes, they require us to have patience and faith even when things seem bleak. Your prayers may not have been ignored, but perhaps they are being answered in a way that requires you to trust in a higher plan.” Samuel was taken aback by the stranger’s words. He realized that his faith had been tested, and he had allowed doubt to cloud his perception. He thanked the stranger for his wisdom and continued to pray, this time with renewed hope and patience.
A few days later, as Samuel was once again praying, he felt a deep peace in his mind. He looked at his wife in astonishment as her body was changing for the better. She was recovering slowly and steadily and her family members and friends who witnessed the gradual healing rejoiced as their prayers were finally answered. Samuel realized that the stranger’s words had been true. His prayers had not been ignored; they had been answered in a way that required him to hold onto faith even in the face of doubt. From that day forward, Samuel’s belief in the power of prayer grew stronger, and he became a beacon of hope for the village, teaching them the valuable lesson of patience, faith, and the mysterious ways in which prayers can be answered.
Like Samuel, a Canaanite woman approached Jesus and did not receive immediate response to her prayer request. She said to Jesus: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus’ response came in four layers: First, he did not say a word to her. Then she kept on pleading for help and the disciples planned to send her away. Secondly, after responding with silence, Jesus then said to her: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman persisted and did Jesus homage, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ Thirdly, he gave her a shocking response, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Jesus probably used this offensive remark to upset her to test her faith, but she refused to be deterred or discouraged. She certainly has a good sense of humour when she replied to him saying, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
At the end of the encounter, Jesus was fascinated by the invincible faith of the Canaanite woman. Jesus’ fourth remark was a positive remark for her faith and an answer to her prayers. He said: “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” As he uttered these words her daughter was healed. So, this final response of Jesus to the woman goes to show how God listens to us when we pray. Sometimes, he responds to our prayers by saying yes, at other times he asks us to wait, and yet at times, he says no. Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman gives us some fresh insight into another way in which God responds to prayers. He responds by challenging and engaging the person who prays. The silence of God is not necessarily his refusal to answer our prayers. Sometimes, it appears that he ignores those who come to ask for their needs. However, one certain thing is that he never forsakes them. The Psalmist rightly says: I have been young and now I am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his descendants begging bread (Psalm 37:25-26). This Canaanite woman must have had thick skin. She knew what she wanted and she had a strong faith that Jesus will respond positively to her request. She exemplifies the words in the book of Hebrews 11:1, which says: “Faith is being sure of what we hope for.”
Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman demonstrates God’s boundless love and goodness, which is universal. Love and goodness must not only be limited to people who belong to the same faith, same family, tribe or race. The ultimate mission of Jesus is to restore dignity to people whose stories and cries have been neglected and ignored by society and the world. Sometimes we feel that God ignores or forgets us. Habakkuk felt that way when he cried out in prayer saying: “How long, O Lord, must I call for help? But you do not listen!” (Habakkuk 1:2). God has many creative ways of drawing you close, of getting your attention and of engaging you. He may begin with silent treatment, or launch an offensive to test, engage and draw you into a deeper conversation.
20th Sunday of the Year A/ Isaiah 56:1,6-7; Romans 11:13-15; 29-32; Matthew 15:21-28;
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