20th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Isaiah 56:1,6-7; Rom. 11: 13-15,28-32; Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28
Exclusiveness . . . Inclusiveness . . . Love and Faith

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 20 August 2017

In today’s Gospel account of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman presents how the Good News of Salvation is “Good” because it is a universal salvation.  When the Canaanite woman pleaded with Jesus to expel the devil that was tormenting her daughter, Jesus’ response was, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. . .  It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.”  However, the Canaanite’ mother responded, “Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.”  Her reply impressed Jesus deeply, and Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith.  Let your wish be granted.  And from that moment here daughter was well again.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, while the Israelites were the Chosen Race, Jesus our Lord and Saviour came to save all peoples.  While the universality of the Good News of Salvation refers to God’s Will to save all peoples, it is important that we also reflect on the “universality of our response” in the living of the Good News.  In other words, it may be relevant for us today to reflect on whether the faith we have in Christ, is one that is practiced with “inclusiveness” or one that is “exclusive.” 

We all know and believe that the Gospel that Jesus proclaimed is radically inclusive in every way.  He not only proclaimed that the Good News of Salvation is beyond the Chosen race of Israel, but also to all peoples, He also proclaimed, that in the living out of the Gospels, we are called to have preferential love for those who are suffering especially the poor, the sick and all those who are oppressed by the secular world. 

Jesus also proclaimed a Gospel that is radically inclusive and unitive in that we are all called to forgive seventy times seven times, and that such forgiveness are all the more important if we have enemies, and people who have hurt us.  Jesus, we know, expressed such Gospel values before He took His last breath on the Cross, when He prayed for those who tortured and crucified Him, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” 

My sisters and brothers in Christ, the basic question that today’s Gospel is presenting to us is, “Are we willing to take up the challenge to live a faith that is inclusive or are we simply satisfied with the present state of our relationship with Jesus?”  In other words, “Are we willing to challenge ourselves to live the Gospel of Christ more radically and more selflessly, out of our love for Christ, or are we saying to Jesus, “Lord, I am happy where I am, in the practice of my faith, and I don’t think I need to challenge myself further.”

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let pray for the divine wisdom of never feeling that we no longer need to challenge ourselves to grow and deepen our relationship with Jesus.  If we should be complacent in our faith, and if we are not vigilant, we will sooner or later take Jesus’ Love for us for granted.  And when that happens, the practice of our faith can easily drift into a routine faith that will eventually become superficial; and worse still eventually become superstitious and self-centred, which militates against the Gospel.  Today’s Gospel, is to challenge us to live our faith more inclusively like Jesus, because an exclusive faith is clearly not living the Gospel and the Good News of Salvation which is for all peoples.

As we do not have the time to go into details in this homily, I would like us simply reflect on the questions that I would like to raise for us to take cognisant of as areas of challenges that you and I need to face.  This is because we should never take our faith and relationship with Jesus for granted.  And so, some of the questions are as follows:

  1. Is the living of my faith daily, over concerned about my comfort and my convenience instead of the Christ-like attitude of serving the needs of others, out of love for Jesus?
  2. Is my generosity of the use of my talents, time, wealth overly centred on my personal and family needs, instead of the Christ-like generosity of using all the blessings I have for the greater good of others and for the Greater Glory of God? 
  3. Is my relationship with people who have hurt me, for whatever reasons, one that is unforgiving, judgmental and negative, instead of the Christ-like forgiving Love?
  4. Are my views about people we dislike, for whatever reasons, uncharitable, divisive and destructive or is our love for people the non-judgmental Christ-like unconditional Love?
  5. Is my religious congregation living our charisms in the short-sighted and ego-centred manner that does not truly serve God’s Greater Glory?
  6. Is my relationship with people of other faith, race and culture prejudiced and exclusive or is it inclusive, respectful and built on genuine dialogue to grow in diversity?
  7. Are my views of the poor and needy and those who are reject and despised by the secular world, negative and exclusive, as though they are burdens to our world, instead of being our brothers and sisters in Jesus?

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the answers to each of the questions that we just heard can only be answered personally, as at the end of the day, when we meet God at the gates of heaven, when we die, we have to be personally answerable to Him.

In other words, the fundamental truth that you and I are called to face is, “In the abundant blessings that God has given us, what have we done with them during our lifetime on earth?  Is our answer, “Lord, Your abundant blessings have produced thirty fold, or sixty fold, a hundred fold harvest, or they have hardly bore fruit for any harvest? 

As I conclude, let us then remind ourselves that when God created us, and put us in this world for a certain period of time, we are each called to value the gift of life and live it as fully as we can, and make a real difference in this world.  More so, when God has blessed us so abundantly and shown us His Merciful Love so unconditionally.  We are then each called and challenged to live a more Christ-centred life, of being the forgiving, compassionate, selfless and Christ-like loving person that God wants us to live daily, and as such never to take the precious gift of our faith and our relationship with Jesus for granted. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we truly wish to live the Christ-like life that Jesus proclaimed, and truly desire to grow in our personal relationship with Jesus, then our faith has to be the Gospel inclusive faith and not the self-centred exclusive faith that we can easily be tempted to live.  As such, we will do well if we do not compare our lives with those who are luke-warm in the practice of their faith, but instead, compare and be inspired by the lives of the exemplary Christians we know, like our Pope Francis and all the saints of the Church.

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

2,212 visitors since 21 August 2017