Last weekend, many of us had the opportunity to be on a retreat called “The Father’s House” where we reflected on the fact that our identity is that of being beloved daughters, beloved sons of a loving Father. On one level that imagery is quite beautiful, personal, intimate. But one of the things we talked about was how those family identities can be difficult and challenging for different reasons. Maybe my parents were distant and not really apart of my life- maybe they were present but hurtful or abusive – in either case, even hearing those terms of “Father” “Son” “Daughter” can be unhelpful or even painful. We talked about those wounds, and tried to re-cast the ideal of a Loving Father who cares, who provides, who is ready to attend to His children’s every need is what is intended. The reality is people have struggled to believe even in that ideal. That God is a loving Father – and that we are His beloved Sons and Daughters. We’ve had distortions of who God is – we’ve had distortions about who we are that make that seem hard to accept. There are even some faith traditions who consider even making that claim to be blasphemy – for them God is simply this all powerful, all knowing being, we are mere creatures, his servants…
Hi everyone here’s my homily for Thursday February 13, 2020. I had a student ask for a copy of this Daily Mass homily so I’m posting it here. The readings for today’s Mass can be found here Thanks so much for stopping by to read this and even ore for sharing it on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and everywhere else people share social media posts and your feedback and comments! In Christ – Father Jim
For the Jews, that identity of being His beloved sons and daughters had suffered because of the fall of Adam and Eve. After that fall, there identity of being “God’s Chosen People” was essential to their covenant relationship. God was still their Father, but they were more like disobedient little kids. The Old Testament is full of stories of set backs, failures, punishments that God would have to renew in some way. We heard that in the First Reading tonight – King Solomon, the King of Israel, had turned away from the Lord God and as the scripture put it “turned his heart to strage gods.” The effect of that has massive repercussions on the people Solomon was leading. God hadn’t abandoned them, but for those who remained, they would need to see the error of their ways, repent and turning back in order for there covenant to be renewed.
In Jesus, what was fractured, what caused distance between the Lord and His people is reconciled. In Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, a new covenant is established. In Jesus – fully human, fully divine – God become man – the Chosen people are called beloved sons and daughters… and even the understanding of who is “chosen” reaches beyond those of the original covenant. It’s not just the Jews – the “gentiles” the “non-jews” are hearing this good news that they are noticed, they are worthy, they are loved. Which is what we see at work in this Gospel.
On the surface, Jesus sounds harsh. This Greek, non-Jewish woman comes to the “rabbi” she’s heard can do miracles. The one whom she loves – her daughter – is suffering, being tormented by a demon. There’s spiritual, emotional and physical pain for the woman’s daughter. Up until this point – Jesus’ miracles, His teaching are causing quite a stir already. The Jewish leaders were upset that he’s not following ritual protocols and rules that were essential for the Chosen people. Jesus keeps trying to get them to see they are more than that, they are God’s beloved sons and daughters. Yes those rituals and protocols were good and important, but being beloved sons and daughters of a Loving Father was greater and essential for them to know the truth of God and themselves. To put it short and sweet – if Dad said it’s okay to heal on a sabbath, then its okay. That was hard enough for his initial listeners to let penetrate their hearts and souls.
Now this “outsider” a non-Jewish woman is asking for a favor – for God’s favor… That would be even more radical. Which is why the short back and forth is telling. What appears to be harsh is meant to shock and catch attention. To the woman’s request, Jesus says “Let the children be fed first. For it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Two times he underlines and puts in bold this truth of their identity: they are children, they are sons and daughters. He’s reinforcing, reiterating what He has been saying that the Jews were children of God – beloved sons and daughters.
The woman humbles herself and reveals a deep faith… As a “non-Jew” she accepts this truth that the Jews are sons and daughters. She’s not laying claim herself to being a beloved, she’s lowering herself to associate with the dog and basically noting that a dog is a loved part of a household. She acknowledges Jesus is who He says He is and who Jesus says the Jews are more than the Jews did themselves. It’s the Greek woman’s faith and belief that allows the miracle to take place. Its her faith and belief that opens up the healing for her daughter and even more, reveals the dawning of this “light to the gentiles” – they too are beloved sons and daughters begins to rise.
We sometimes forget how blessed we are. We sometimes beat ourselves up or allow others to do that. We can feel less than a dog under the table looking for a scrap of food – unworthy to even be in Jesus’ presence. The gentile woman’s faith is meant to snap us out of those lies and fears. Praise God we’re here and we’re reminded that in our very baptisms we were baptized into Christ and told that very day we had a new birth, a new identity as we put on Christ himself… we were changed forever into sons and daughters… In this Mass have the opportunity to receive Jesus’ very body and blood in the Eucharist (and then to sit with Him in silence, awe, wonder, praise in Adoration) we become a part of the body of Christ… And even when we screw up, and fall, and feel the guilt and shame of our sins that makes us question does God still look at me the same way – could he still love me – with confession we’re assured that we are free of all sin and reconciled, healed and made whole.
He is our loving Father – and we are his beloved sons and daughters. May we never forget that or let anyone or anything diminish that, our true identities.