There Are No "Foreigners" in the Reign of God

WeeklyMessageGuest Homilist:
Fr. Joseph Pelligrino

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
August 14, 2011

The readings for this Sunday are among the most difficult passages in the Bible. St. Paul seems to be talking in circles when he says to the Romans: “If the rejection of the Jews has meant reconciliation for the world, what would their acceptance mean, nothing less than life from the dead.” In the Gospel, Jesus appears to be cold, even callous to the woman crying out for help. First he refuses to help her saying, ‘My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then, he appears to insult her by saying, “it is not right to take the food of the sons and daughters and feed it to the dogs.” We need to spend some time trying to understand these readings so we can profit from the Church’s message to us today.

First of all, let’s look at the reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Can you imagine the terrible opposition St. Paul had to face when he tried to convince the pagans to become Christian? Here he was, a Jew, telling gentiles or non-Jews, that salvation has come through Jesus, also a Jew. Many of Paul’s own people, the Jewish people in the area, said that Paul was insane. Still, the Gentiles followed Christ. That’s why Paul says, “If so many of the gentiles listened to me, a former pharisee, and follow Jesus despite the opposition of the Jews, imagine what would happen if the Jews were to accept Jesus. The whole world would be Christian.” Then, building on this concept, Paul reasons (in my paraphrase of his words): Well, you gentiles ignored what your consciences told you was right when you embraced pagan atrocities like orgies, etc. By going against your consciences, you were sinning; you were being disobedient to God. But your very disobedience became an occasion for you to receive God’s mercy. Now the Jews, who are the chosen people of the Lord, have also disobeyed God’s will, by rejecting the Christ. Still, their disobedience can result in God’s mercy being extended to them if they call out to God in faith. Jews and Gentiles have sinned, but God’s mercy is greater than their sins.

And God’s mercy and love is available to all. That is what is at the heart of the gospel passage. The Canaanite woman who seeks help at first receives the response she should expect from a Jew: “It is not right to take the food of the sons and daughters and throw it to the dogs.” This follows the Jewish custom of speaking about the gentiles as dogs. Jesus purposely spoke in a way that the Jews would expect a Jew to speak. Then he turns the tables on them. Because this woman has great faith and persists in pleading for her child, he heals her daughter.

In Christ all divisions and differences between people are irrelevant. You might remember Paul’s passage in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female. All are one in Christ.” God’s mercy is extended to all who call upon him in faith.

As obvious as this seems, there have been people throughout the world and throughout history who do not recognize the equality of all people before the Lord. We have just concluded a century that was dominated by the events leading to and resulting from the worst war mankind has ever suffered. Nazism claimed that certain people were far more blessed by God than others. For them anyone who was not part of the Aryan race was an inferior human being. Taken to its extreme, the Nazis had no difficulties in killing gypsies, Jews, and others they claimed were a burden to God’s plan for mankind.

Outside of Christianity, the world has been suffering from radical Islam. These people think that they are serving God by murdering innocent people, including children. It is shocking that these radicals behave like cowards yet think that they are courageous fighters.

Here in America there have also been people who have decided that they were more blessed by the Lord than others, as though God put them in charge of establishing a pecking order for him. There was a time when Americans believed, and some still believe, that wealth demonstrates a special relationship to the Lord. The implication was that those without wealth are a lesser part of His creation. There was a time when Americans believed, and some still believe, that their race or their ethnic background was more blessed by the Lord than others. Sadly our country is still suffering from militaristic white supremacist groups that have the gall to claim God’s blessing upon what is in fact their rejection of Christianity. How dare they sing “Onward Christian Soldiers” and speak about the Lord Jesus while they make plans to attack African-Americans, Jewish-Americans, Asian-Americans and anybody else that does not share their ethnic background?

Jesus Christ will not exclude anyone from God’s love and mercy. But those who think they have a right to focus their infantile insecurities into hatred of others have themselves excluded Christ from their own lives.

The tables have been turned. The former enemy of God’s plan, the Canaanite, has now received the blessing of God. The tables have been turned. Those who had refused to acknowledge the existence of the one God, the pagans, have now become the most fervent believers. The tables have been turned. Those from foreign continents whose ancestors never heard of Jesus have become true Christians. And those of us whose ancestors were called to follow the Lord many generations ago have been invited to share the bread of the Lord, the compassion of Christ, with all who call out to Him in mercy and love.
This material is used with permission of its author, Rev. Joseph A. Pellegrino, Diocese of St. Petersburg, FL

A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
August 14, 2011

The Faith to Move Mountains
Jesus heals the daughter of the Canaanite woman because her faith was so great. He rebuked the disciples because their faith was too little. Matthew’s gospel here is teaching us something very important about the nature of Christian faith.

Why did Jesus call the Canaanite woman a “dog”? To teach us how to pray!
Often enough, when preaching on this Gospel, priests and deacons will say something incredibly foolish like, “Jesus didn’t realize just how persistent this woman could be!” Or, “This Gentile woman taught Jesus that he wasn’t sent only to the house of Israel, but to all people.”

Who Let All the Riffraff Into the Covenant? The Readings for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
My ancestors are Dutch, and—like many other ethnic groups—the Dutch think they’re pretty special. The saying is, “If yah ain’t Dutch, yah ain’t much.”

However one may assess the muchness of the Dutch in modern times, from the perspective of the people of Israel in antiquity, the Dutch were riffraff, nameless illiterate Germanic tribes eking out a living on the cold shoreline and humid forests of northwestern Europe. How could such people ever enter into the fullness of God’s covenant?

Who is In and Who is Out: Twentieth Sunday
In our liturgy today we are considering the tension in the early Church between the Jews, the Chosen People, and the Gentiles. This might not seem to us today to be a very important topic; we might think of it as an old problem and something not really worthy of our attention.

The Acts We Perform; the People We Become
From the 1950’s through the late 1970’s Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was a professor of moral philosophy at the Catholic University of Lublin in Poland, specializing in sexual ethics and what we call today “marriage and family life.” He produced two important books touching on these matters, The Acting Person, a rigorously philosophical exploration of Christian anthropology, and Love and Responsibility, a much more accessible analysis of love, sex, and marriage. These texts provided the foundation for the richly textured teaching of Pope John Paul II that now goes by the name “theology of the body.”

Catechism: Saints
I’ve been thinking of new ways to share the Catholic faith and came up with the “What does the Catholic Catechism say about that?” feature. Weekly (hopefully) I will post quotes from the catechism either on their own or in relation to a topic discussion. Today I am starting with the topic of “saints”.

Can We Stop Telling God What To Do?
Plato thought intercessory prayer was ridiculous. If God is all-good, then trying to get Him to change His mind or treat you differently is to ask Him to do something less than fully just, which is contrary to God’s nature. Christ, however, instructed us to pray and to ask for what we need. And as much as I admire Plato, I’ll side with Christ every time.

Growing Up Homeless
If I had to name one of the most unique characteristics of my childhood, it would probably be the fact that, because of my father’s job, my family relocated every three or four years. We pulled up roots and moved so many times that the smell of cardboard boxes and packing tape makes me grow nostalgic. By the time I was fifteen, I had lived in more states than my mother had so much as visited by the time she was twenty-five.

A virtual pilgrimage to World Youth Day
In a week’s time Pope Benedict will be arriving in Madrid to attend the Church’s World Youth Day (WYD) celebrations that are expected to attract more than a million young people. Given its venue in Europe, organisers say it’s no surprise that after Spaniards, Italians, Germans and French top the list of those registered to attend the week-long event, with smaller numbers of Americans signed up. But thanks to the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference (USCCB) even those young people who can’t travel to Madrid will be able to take part.

Photos: Astounding Subterranean Salt Cathedral in Poland
Deep underground in Poland lies something remarkable but little known outside Eastern Europe. For centuries, miners have extracted salt there, but left behind things quite startling and unique. Take a look at the most unusual salt mine in the world.

Child Actor Lucy Hussey-Bergonzi, 13, Saved from Death through Baptismal Water
Lucy Hussey-Bergonzi was 13 years old when she collapsed with a brain hemorrhage in February of 2009. At the hospital, her parents called for a Catholic priest to baptize her before she died. As the holy water touched her forehead, Lucy’s arm shot up in the air and within 24 hours she was taken off life support.

The seal of confession: some basics
Following on from threats in Ireland to require priests to break the seal of confession, I want to go through some of the basics concerning the seal, and then to deal specifically with some other questions (including what the priest might do if the civil authority asks him under penalty to break the seal.) I am particularly grateful for the manual of the saintly Fr Felix Cappello SJ: Tractatus Canonico-Moralis De Sacramentis Vol II.

Feral Children: Fruit of the Sexual Revolution and the Welfare State
A British journalist writing in the UK’s Daily Mail has fairly well pinpointed the causes of the current youth riots going on in England, in essence the same as the flashmobs and other acts of criminal brutality currently being carried out by youth here in the US. Chillingly, but not without cause, he terms them “feral children.”

Father Busa, the Jesuit priest who invented the hypertext
The pioneer of computer science language has passed away at the age of 98

If you can read this article, typed using a computer keyboard, it is greatly thanks to him. If PC and notebook have left the typewriter permanently on the sidelines, if we can compose and decompose texts, perform analysis and researches at the click of a mouse, if we increasingly communicate through virtual messages, this is all greatly thanks to him. Father Roberto Busa, a Jesuit, inventor of computer language, forerunner of the active hypertext on the Web fifteen years earlier than American scientists, editor as well of the monumental Index Thomisticus, died of old age on Tuesday evening at the Aloisianum institute in Gallarate.

Is There Life After Abortion?
When the woman came to us, she was in total despair. She believed she was the worst of the worst, and wondered how God could ever forgive her for her multiple abortions.

The very act of participating in the death of one’s child goes against everything nature has called us to be as mothers and fathers: nurturers and protectors of the life created. It is not easy to heal the damage one has done to oneself by having an abortion.

I Am a Cosmic Killjoy
As Chesterton famously did not observe, when people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything. One of the corollaries of this, in our time, is that loss of faith in the Second Coming and the Last Judgment and Four Last Things and angels does not mean that people believe in sputtering out their three score and ten in the cubicle job and then just being cremated and stuffed in the broom closet in an urn. Rather it means that our whole culture busily manufactures a secularist materialist myth to replace the reality of the Christian tradition.

Eclectic Convert: Julie Nicholson
Julie is wife, mother and Catholic convert raised in the Methodist church. During her walk of faith she encountered many different Protestant denominations before finally calling the Catholic Church home.

Looking back in my Christian walk of over 30 years, I can now see my steps into the Catholic Church as a reflection of the poem “Footprints in the Sand”. My feet have traveled into many Christian denominations the past 30 years, such as Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian USA, PCA, Assembly of God, Non-denomination and Bible Church. My footprints and Jesus’ prints were side by side for several of those years.

The Value of a Woman
I have rarely been so angry.

Last week, Kathi called me at work. We were in the process of selling a car, and the prospective buyer had asked us to drive it over to her mechanic friend for an inspection. No problem, we thought.

Until Kathi arrived at the seedy used car lot where the mechanic friend worked.

What Is A Stave Church?
“Stave church” refers specifically to a kind of architectural style, and a unique one at that. Once prevalent across northwestern Europe during the medieval period, now all but one stave church from this time period exist in Norway. In general, these churches use a combination of posts and beams to create a structure with better load-bearing capabilities. As you can imagine, this was important in the snowy north of Europe. The word post actually translates as stav in Norwegian, hence the name.

An Unusual Priest and Hero – Fr Emil Kapuan
On Easter morning, March 25, 1951, the Catholic priest mounted the steps of a partially destroyed church, and turned to face his congregation, some 60 men – gaunt, foul-smelling, in tattered clothing.

Fr. Emil Kapaun raised a small, homemade, wooden cross to begin a prayer service, led the men in the Rosary, heard the confessions of the Catholics, and performed a Baptism. Then, he wept because there was no bread or wine to consecrate so that the men could receive the Eucharist.

Does a parish priest have time to blog?
The Catholic blogosphere sometimes reminds me of the early Church – all sorts of people are saying all sorts of things, some are right, some are almost right, and some are way wrong. The internet is an environment with very little control, hence there is almost no on-line oversight from the Church’s pastors (i.e. the bishops). What is more, the internet culture is often looked down upon by the Hierarchy – both by bishops and by many of the priests.

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