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Homily for the Twentieth Sunday, year A.

18 Aug 2017, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Reflecting on our readings today reminds me of Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus said t the woman at the well, “You [Samaritans] do not know what you worship; we [Jews] do know what we worship, for salvation comes from the Jews” (Jn. 4:22). In other words, salvation comes through the Jews to everyone.

Prophet Isaiah tells us in our first reading that salvation, the Messianic kingdom is not exclusively Jewish. Salvation has nothing to do with race or color but for everyone who believes. Isaiah used the word “foreigner” for none Jews; he said, foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, minister to him, serve him, and love the name of the Lord will be saved.

God does not give up on his children. We are all God’s children, from every race, color, and nation, and even the non-Christians. God created all of us, but there’s only one way to be saved; by joining yourself with the Lord.

Many Jews refused to join themselves with the Lord; they called Jesus a carpenter, the son of Mary and Joseph, and not the Lord. Still, God did not give up on them. God called Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles, to do wonders in his name among the non-Jews to make the Jews jealous that they might come back to salvation. St. Paul Said, “I glorify my ministry in order to make my own flesh and blood jealous, and thus save some of them.” Even Jesus himself in our gospel passage for today withdrew from Jewish territory into the district of Tyre and Sidon, a pagan territory, he brought salvation to the people just as he brought it to the Jews. While Jesus was in that territory, a woman, a Canaanite, a foreigner, to use the word of the prophet Isaiah, chose to join herself with the Lord.

The Canaanites were considered by the Jews as enemies, pagans who worship different gods, they were to have no contact with the Israelites in any way, but when Jesus stepped into their territory, a bold and courageous woman from that district came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” Jesus pretended not to notice her, his apostles pleaded with him to give her what she wanted because her shout was becoming embarrassing, but Jesus said he was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel and he even called the woman a dog. The woman never minded, her persistence paid off, and Jesus healed her daughter.

God worked wonders among the Gentiles, first because they believed and are also children of God. Secondly, God worked wonders among the Gentiles to make the Jews feel jealous and see reasons to come back to their God. God never gives up on his children, he is always devising means to remind us of the need to come back to him.

Sometimes we feel so unworthy to come back to the Lord, to come back to the Sacraments, to the Sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist. We are discouraged by our many failings and weaknesses, but we must learn from the Canaanite woman. She did not let anything hold her back; not the name-calling could hold her back from joining herself to the Lord, not even her pagan background. She may have worshiped idols, but they were all in her past, what mattered to her at that moment when she saw Jesus, was that her salvation has come.

Dear friends, many things may be holding us back but I assure you that God hasn’t given up on you, don’t give up on yourself. Even when your plea seems not to be heard and your efforts are not appreciated, always remember that God knows you by name and he knows you are there. Do not let your cry for help be silenced.