Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
From birth and into our toddler years our worlds are small. The circle of life is home, parents, siblings if we are not the first child, and anyone who happens to live with family or visits it regularly. Our circle of life expands as we play outdoors and begin school. In high school and college we encounter people with stories and experiences both different and similar to our own; plus, we have opportunities to enlarge our worlds still more by travel and service.
This sketch of personal development--from a small circle of life to a wider one--helps us appreciate the development of God’s people. In its infancy it focused on God liberating it from slavery. The people were isolated in their formative, desert wanderings from Egypt to Canaan. They began to encounter other people with different beliefs and religious practice: in shorthand, others devoted themselves to many deities, but Israel was called to devote themselves to the One God alone. Antagonistic: not always faithful to the One God and viewing others with suspicion at best marked their more developed years and relations with others.
Eventually they lost their freedom again and tasted long and bitter exiles from it. The entire series of exiles of different portions of God’s people lasted 195 years. At the end of the exile Isaiah announced that not only did God desire God’s people again to be close to God, God desired to be close to all people. God desired a prominent place in the circle of life of all individuals! That surely astonished the Chosen People: all who...hold to my covenant...I will bring to my holy mountain [and] my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
The prelude to this universal salvation had a priority: Observe what is right, do what is just. God’s people had a role in God’s salvation: observing what is right and doing God’s justice prepared for God’s desire: for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.
So astonishing was this to the Chosen People that we heard in the gospel the disciples of Jesus tried to dismiss a non-Jewish woman from Jesus and with her her plea for help and healing. Even Jesus seems to share his disciples’ instinct by his curious phrase, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” His human instinct gave way to God’s priority when Jesus saw only God’s healing power could satisfy her great faith.
God’s priority persists in our time of different circumstances. The diocesan initiative, Vibrant Parish Life, has consequences for everyone. Our parish cluster of St. Dominic and Gesu embodies God’s priority of salvation, worship and growth in faith, hope and love.
In your 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the love the Trinity has for you for creating you is the Trinity’s priority. Ask the courageous Canaanite woman to present you to Jesus. Praise Jesus by name and implore Jesus for what you need. Ask Jesus to make your heart more generous so that you can engage our Gesu-St. Dominic parish cluster. Close by saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer which is Jesus’ words given to us to grow in courage, wisdom and to make Christian love our priority.
Wiki-image of Marsa Alam by Marc Ryckaert is used according to the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Wiki-image of Jesus and the Canaanite woman is in the public domain.