20th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Cycle A
1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a; Psalm 85:9, 10, 11-12, 13-14; Rom 9:1-5; Gospel: Mt 14:22-33
Faith is the gift we receive at Baptism.
At the beginning of the baptismal rite, the Priest or Deacon asks those who are going to be baptized – “What do you ask of the Church?” The response to this question is – “Faith”. In baptism God gives the gift of his forgiveness that he poured out on the cross for us.
The gift of faith at Baptism is the gift of God’s love.
Jesus came as a man to open heaven for us. In a practical way, He came to invite us into relationship with God by removing the obstacles that we have placed between us by our sin. Jesus paid the price for sin to invite us into a loving relationship with God. This is what it means to ask for faith – we are asking to share our lives with God, and to be one of his beloved children.
Today’s Gospel humbles Christians – St. Peter vs Pagan Woman.
It is humbling then to be confronted with today’s Gospel. When those who ought to know (i.e. St. Peter, the first Pope) are rebuked for their weak faith, and those who are ignorant (The pagan woman in today’s Gospel) are extolled for her great faith.
Our lives of faith are a work in progress
At the same time, Jesus did not abandon Peter to the waves, but rather he continued to work with Peter to help him to see the totality of Gods’ love for him. He does the same with us. If we thought that we have done our part in loving God last week, that is good, because today Christ calls us to walk with Him in a deeper way, He calls us to deepen our faith and our love for Him.
Saints respond to Gods love and are beautified.
Recently Pope John Paul II was beatified, which is one of the steps on the way to becoming a saint. A saint is a man or woman who chose to allow Gods love to transform their lives. When we beatified Pope John Paul II we recognized that his life was beautiful because his life was filled with faith. One of our desires as humans is to want to become more beautiful, and accepting our faith is a certain path to beauty. It is through living out our faith completely that we become beautiful.
Embracing the fullness of the faith exposes our entire life to the light of God’s love.
A characteristic of saints is that they embrace the fullness of the faith. They do not pick and choose the easy parts, but they embrace the teachings of the Church in its entirety. When we have the courage to do this we bring the fullness of who we are into contact with the gift of faith that God has given us. This allows us to be purified because our selfishness is illuminated by Christ’s selfless love. When this happens have the opportunity to make a decision, to see good and evil in the light of Gods love and to choose the good and to reject the evil – which is the grace of our baptism.
We say “I believe” by responding to the trial of faith with love.
When we recognize the love that God has shown us we need to make a decision – will I love God in return? The way that I love God in return is to imitate his love for me. This is why Christian’s are called to love those who hurt them rather than to hate them by seeking revenge. When we choose to love then we are free because we are not allowing our persecutors to control our behavior.
Saints know the love of God because they are humble.
Another way that the saints see the greatness of God’s love is through the gift and their own powerlessness. They are all beggars because they recognize the truth of their own weakness, how easy it is to allow sin to rule their lives rather than to depend on God’s mercy and grace. In this sense they too became more loving and forgiving of those around them, while at the same time encouraging those trapped in sin to seek the grace and forgiveness of God. If we find that we are trapped by sin, a way of live that is contrary to the Gospel, then we are encouraged to seek forgiveness in the sacrament of confession. To be cleansed of our sin and purified so we can experience God’s love more fully.
What are we going to do about it?
In the Gospel today a pagan woman comes to Christ as an annoying beggar and says “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” At first Jesus simply ignores her, but because she is so annoying he finally says “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Pause a moment and think about what Jesus just said. He was rude, he called this poor women a dog. This woman has determination because she sees in Christ the abundance of God’s love and knows that it must overflow beyond the Jews. She knows that God’s love is so great that it must overflow to all people and so she responds. “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Jesus responds to her witness of God’s love by saying “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Is our life of faith recognizable?
Do we recognize Gods love for us in our lives? More importantly – are we living lives that allow our faith to form us so that our family, friends and co-workers can see the greatness of Gods love in our lives, and share in this great blessing that God has given us?