August 16, 2020
by Luis Rodriguez, S.J.
Creighton University's Jesuit Community
click here for photo and information about the writer

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 118

Isaiah 56:1, 6-7
Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Matthew 19:3-12

Praying Ordinary Time

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Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

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A theme running through today’s readings is that of universalism. In the first reading we find: even the foreigner... will be accepted..., a non-genetic incorporation: my house... a house of prayer for all peoples. The psalm response sings: O God, let all the nations praise you. And in the second reading Paul presents himself to the Romans as apostle of the Gentiles.

It is against this background awareness that today’s gospel reading stands out as a crumbling of barriers between Jews and Gentiles. We observe a very tender “haggling” between Jesus, a Jew, and the non-Jewish Gentile woman in an almost typical middle-Easterner haggling. The woman was arguing from her heart, not from theological principles, and her heart reveals a faith and trust that could not be articulated at a theological level. Jesus gets her message and tells her: you have great faith. The scene and its outcome are reminiscent of the exchange between Jesus and Mary at the Cana wedding, where Jesus states my hour has not yet come and yet Mary’s heart wins the day. In today’s scene we seem to hear my hour to expand beyond the boundaries has not yet come, but the woman’s heart wins the day.

Universalism is at the root of Christianity, indeed the very word Catholic means precisely all-encompassing. The reason I can proclaim the gospel in English is precisely universalism, since the gospel was not initially proclaimed in English and in fact it was not even proclaimed in Greek, the language of the written gospels, but in Aramaic. After centuries of circling the wagons, the Church has regained this universal perspective and ecumenism has been strongly present in the Second Vatican Council and in the Popes since that council. A non-adversarial attitude.

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