This coming Sunday (16 August 2020) is the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. The following is a homily by Father Valentine Young, OFM, who died on 17 January 2020. We received permission to post these homilies, as well as to correct “grammatical errors, etc.” To learn more about Father Valentine, scroll to the bottom of the page. These homilies were all delivered sometime between 2013 and 2020.
Homily • 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
HERE IS NO DENYING the fact that there is something very unique about how Jesus acted in today’s Gospel episode. It’s about the only time that Jesus seemed like he was going to deny someone’s fervent request. And then the rest of His remarks could almost be considered insulting. When you read different commentators you will find different explanations. Both you and I can possibly come up with an explanation or reasons for why Jesus said what He did. But when all is said and done, that is all we have: our own or someone else’s explanation.
Reaction of the woman: Apparently the lady didn’t get angry or frustrated. She didn’t give up hope, but kept right in there. And in the end we can say that she won. In fact Jesus ends up by paying her a great compliment about her great faith. And more importantly she obtains what she originally had asked for: the cure of her daughter.
An example for us: I will admit it’s easy to say that this should be an example for us. I do believe that our prayer life—especially when we go to God with our needs and petitions—can be a great test of our faith. The reason I say this is because it seems to happen so often that our prayers (yes, our well intentioned prayers) seem to go unanswered. I’m not referring to those prayers when we are praying for material things like money or jobs or even health. I’m referring to the times when we pray for the conversion of loved ones who have fallen away from the church, who no longer practice their religion, who no longer believe. Why aren’t those prayers answered?
Don’t be so sure: I’ve entitled the next part of my sermon Don’t be so sure! There are so many things about God that we don’t know or understand. One of these is something I will call “God’s timing.” Strictly speaking there is no time with God in the sense that we understand “time.” With God everything is an eternal “now.” We can’t understand that, so don’t even try. And God has His reasons for allowing things to happen when and where they are supposed to happen. And so when He doesn’t answer our prayers right now—like we would like to happen—He has His reasons. But remember Jesus told us: Ask and you shall receive. I can assure you that He meant it. He never said “immediately.”
The woman’s faith: Jesus Himself gives us the reason why He answered this woman’s request: it was her great faith; her great confidence that Jesus would grant her request. I sometimes think that the more “educated” people become, the less their faith becomes. There is no denying the great technological advances of the last decade. Younger people can carry on conversations about iPads, computers, etc., and I don’t know what they are talking about. Let something go wrong on my computer and I am completely helpless. Unfortunately too many in the modern world are losing their faith in God. How much faith and confidence do I have when I pray for the conversion of a loved one? Do I have as much faith as this woman who asked for the cure of her daughter? After all, Jesus had told her that since she was not a Jew, he wasn’t really sent for her benefit.
Conclusion: In conclusion I will relate the following incident about my own mother since maybe some of you can relate it to your own mothers (if you are older) or your grandmothers. I had a brother who was married outside the Church and had stopped going to Church for about thirty years. An aunt of mine once asked my mother if she worried about him. Without hesitating my mother answered, “I don’t worry about him; I just pray for him.” What wisdom coming from someone who only went to the fifth or sixth grade! More importantly, what faith in prayer she had! How does your faith…how does my faith compare?