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08/20/17 Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Fr. Reggie

The heart of God can be moved, because God is a person, not a force.

This Christian truth shines through in today's Gospel. Jesus had a particular mission to accomplish during his earthly lifetime. He was to fulfill the Old Testament prophecies and lay the foundation of the Catholic Church. The parameters of this mission did not include Canaanites (ancestral enemies of the Israelites).

And yet, Jesus makes an exception to these parameters after his encounter with the Canaanite woman.

She touched his heart because she had what Christ's heart most yearns for: love, faith, and humility

Her love comes across in her self-forgetfulness.

She was so concerned for her daughter, than she was even willing to make a humiliating spectacle out of herself, tagging along behind a Jewish rabbi in public, screaming to get his attention.

Her faith comes across in how she addresses Jesus.  She calls him "Lord" and "Son of David." This shows that although she was a Canaanite; she knew about the Jewish religion and accepted God's promise to send a Messiah. And when he finally stops to listen to her, she falls on her knees and does him homage - she knows she is in God's presence. She believed in Jesus, so much so, in fact, that Jesus himself compliments her on her faith!

Her humility comes across in the way she makes her request. She didn't come to him burning with anger at God for allowing her innocent daughter to be tormented by demons. She understood that miracles were undeserved gifts from God, just like existence itself. This humble attitude strengthened her, enabling her to absorb the Lord's initial rejection, and then come right back with another petition.

Love, faith, and humility: these are the ingredients for prayer that moves the heart of God - a heart that can be moved, because God is a person, not a force.

In the back of our minds, sometimes, we can't help wondering why our prayers don't always get as dramatic and immediate results as this woman's prayers.

Is it just because we don't love enough, aren't humble enough, don't have enough faith? Maybe sometimes that is the case. Maybe sometimes we approach God the way we approach a Coke machine: we think that if we put in the dollar of our Hail Marys and Our Fathers, God will spew out exactly what we ask for. And when that doesn't happen, which is most of the time, we give up hope.

But we shouldn't. God answers every single prayer we utter, because he is the perfect Father, with a perfect Father's heart. He can answer with a yes, no, or not yet, but he always answers. Mature faith understands this.

King David gives us an example of mature faith. After he committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered Bathsheba's husband, the prophet Nathan confronted him, and he repented, doing public penance for his sins. But Bathsheba gave birth to a son as a result of their adultery. When the infant child fell sick and was dying, King David prayed and fasted for seven days, begging God to heal him. On the seventh day, the child died. David's servants were afraid to tell him the news, because they thought he would take it badly. But they were wrong. When David realized that God had not given him what he was asking for, he humbly accepted God's decision and went off to have some dinner.

When God doesn't give us exactly what we ask for, it simply means that he is planning on giving us something better.

God is not a Coke machine; he is our perfectly wise and loving Father.

Jesus changed his specific plans because his encounter with the Canaanite woman fit into his overall plan - to overcome the power of the devil and win all hearts back to God.

This should give us unbridled confidence as we, like the Canaanite woman, bring our needs to the feet of Christ. Today he will become truly present under the appearance of bread and wine during this holy Mass. And when I [the priest] elevate the host after the words of consecration, all of us will be here on our knees giving homage to our Lord, just like the Canaanite woman. When that moment comes, let's open our hearts to Christ, showing him as much love, faith, and humility, as we can muster. Perhaps we can do that by praying - at that moment of the Mass - passionately for a loved one who is ill or separated from God, as the Canaanite woman did. Perhaps our prayer will be more personal - asking God to strengthen us for our own struggles during this coming week. However we do it, let's give Christ the pleasure of knowing that we truly believe in him and trust that he can make the crucial difference in our lives and in the lives of those around us.

And then, when we return to the hustle and bustle of life during the rest of the week, let's make sure that we stay flexible enough to allow the needs of our neighbors to change our personal plans, whenever Christ's overall plan may require it.

Jesus never turns a deaf ear to the cries of our hearts.

And so we should never turn a deaf ear to the often hidden cries of our neighbors.



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