Sunday 16 August 2020
20th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Isaiah 56.1,6-7, Romans 11.13-15,29-32, Matthew 15.21-28.

The three readings of today speak in favour of the strangers/foreigners. These strangers are those perceived as being outside the blessings of God. They are the ‘pagans’, ‘unbelievers’, ‘gentiles’ etc. In the first reading, Isaiah prophesied that the holocausts and sacrifices of these strangers will be accepted, they will be made joyful in the house of God. St. Paul was expressing his happiness in being sent as the apostle to these foreigners and pagans; he even made it clear that the real children of God would envy them in order to be saved.

We see the peak of these favours towards the foreigners in the gospel; from calling one of them figuratively a dog, Jesus made an uncommon statement about her; ‘woman, you have a great faith’. Now, what about the children with birth right, to whom these favours of God originally belonged? St. Paul says of them, ‘God does not take back His gifts; He does not revoke His choice’. This theme is very important as we see it severally playing out in the Old and New Testament. Even in our time, it is very real. There are people who are worried about God’s blessings and promises in their lives. They wonder if God has withdrawn His love and promises towards them. There are also people who take it for granted that it is their birth right.

Whether you see yourself as a foreigner or a child with birth right, it is important to note that there are certain conditions for almost everything. When Jesus visited His home town, He did only a few miracles simply because His people had no faith, He was even marvelled by their lack of faith, Mark 6.5-6. There are also very few people whose faith moved Jesus; one of them was the Roman centurion, a pagan and foreigner, in his case Jesus said, ‘not even in Israel have I seen such faith’ Matthew 8.10. Another person is the woman in the gospel today; Jesus initially ignored her request insisting that food meant for children should not be given to the dogs. Yet, the woman’s faith and attitude ‘overwhelmed’ Jesus, He commended her faith and granted her prayer immediately.

You will also discover that in these two miracles, Jesus never even went to the homes, the faith were so powerful that it broke the barrier of distance in these two cases, ‘only say the word, and my servant shall be healed’. God has not withdrawn His gifts and promises, He has not rejected us, God has not changed, He is still the loving Father Who never fails. We only need to look into ourselves, change our hearts and turn to Him in faith and obedience. God’s gifts are accessible through faith, humility and obedience. The enemy knows this; in order to make us lose the gifts and favours of God, the enemy seduces us to doubt, pride and disobedience.

Lack of faith, pride, and disobedience can sabotage our access to the gifts of God, it does not really matter if you have birth right or you are a foreigner, according the Prophet Isaiah, the house of God will be a house of prayer for all the people. Everyone has now access to the blessings and mercy of God for it pleased God to show mercy to all. The blessings, gifts and choice of God are now available to anyone who approaches Him in faith and right attitude.

This is very important especially for those who regard themselves as having birth right, the tendency to take things for granted, to become proud and even rebellious could be seen among those with birth right, we see this among Jesus’ relatives who wanted to force out miracle from Him, and when they saw no miracles, they nearly threw him down a hill, Luke 4.14-30. We saw it when the Jews who out of jealousy, incited people against Paul and Barnabas, Acts 13.42-52.

And this attitude is still very much among us today in different and subtle forms. May God give us the spirit of true faith and proper attitude to access, activate and actualise His promises and blessings for our lives through Christ our Lord. Amen


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