August 20, 2017 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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People look at my friend Ann and judge her. They judge her because she speaks slowly. They judge her because it takes her a while to express herself. They judge her because she doesn’t sit up straight. They judge her because she is in a wheelchair. Maybe they feel that she does not have a lot to offer society. Maybe they feel that she is a burden, but my friend Ann is far from that.

Ann was born with Cerebral Palsy. Most of her life she has had to walk with support. In her adult years she has been confined to a wheelchair and has lost the use of one of her arms. Despite that, she has attended the March for Life for over 30 years. I believe that she only missed attending the March because of a hospitalization. Ann is an advocate not only for life but for all persons with a disability. Even in the small town in which she lives, she was a force for having ramps installed at the corners so that she could go to the store without negotiating the curbs. Long before it became the norm, she made sure that our church was accessible. She also made sure that our parish hosts a Mass for persons with disabilities every year. I know many people who in the eyes of the world have far more, but do far less. Yet Ann is judged for how she appears to be.

In Today’s gospel from Matthew 15:21-28, a Canaanite woman approaches Jesus and asks that he heal her daughter who is possessed by a demon. Jesus puts her off saying that he was sent for the lost sheep of Israel. She persists. She is a Canaanite, by all appearances a sworn enemy of Israel; yet she continues. Every time that He puts her off, she has a reply. She will not take no for an answer. Eventually he relents and commends her on her faith. Her daughter is healed.

At first reading you might think that Jesus is being less than the Man we know and love. Why is He acting this way? There is more than meets the eye here in this conversation. In the previous chapter of Matthew, John was beheaded – a clear opposition to Jesus’ ministry. Then Jesus fed five thousand and walked on the water. He was showing the Hebrews that He was the Messiah. Scripture says that Jesus then traveled out of that country to the regions of Tyre and Sidon. Perhaps He travels because He was trying to get some distance between Himself and the recent events. He was mourning the death of His cousin and then immediately had to prove Himself. Then He meets a woman who is a historically an enemy of Israel and she recognizes immediately that He is the Messiah. He puts her off only to demonstrate the strength of her faith. She not only demonstrates great faith but uses it to be an advocate for someone else. He rewards her for it by healing her daughter.

If you meet my friend Ann, you might think that she is weak. You may take her at face value. But my friend Ann is a woman of great faith and is strong in ways that most of us will never be. She puts her faith in motion to improve the lives of others.

How is your faith today? Maybe like Ann and the Canaanite woman, your outside does not match your inside. Maybe like Ann or the Canaanite woman, you could use your faith to be a voice for someone who is actually weak.

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