Homily: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Readings of the Day

Over the course of the summer, the news has upset me a lot. I haven’t seen this scale of hatred and intolerance since my childhood in the 1960s. Confronting evil is something we are all called to do, but how we do it is a difficult choice. I was reminded of these words of J.R.R. Tolkien from The Hobbit:
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.”

After reflecting on that, it seemed familiar to me. In a while it reminded me of some things St. Francis de Sales said. This great man believed that every way of life, every occupation had its own spirituality and a way to holiness of its own, and they were all good. There were a couple of quotes that struck me particularly:

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”

Fear is a greater evil than evil itself.

When you encounter difficulties and contradictions, do not try to break them, but bend them with gentleness and time.”

Bending resistance with gentleness is what the Canaanite woman did in today’s Gospel reading. Jesus was outside of Galilee, probably moving around to avoid notice and stay out of trouble until the last time he was to go to Jerusalem. He might not have wanted to be recognized on the street right then. It’s hard to imagine Jesus being bothered at someone, and I think this the only story in the Bible like this. However the woman persists, gently, and Jesus is impressed by the depth of her faith. So Jesus grants her request, the demon troubling her daughter is gone. Persistence is the point of the story, not whether Jesus was really bothered or not. Like Jacob wrestling with God overnight, sometimes we have to hang onto Him until we get that blessing.

We are involved in difficulties regularly, and sometimes giving up on faith because it doesn’t seem to help us is tempting. However at times like this we have to be persistent, hang in there, grab a hold of Jesus and not let go. The national news disturbs me regularly, however that evil can be overcome with gentleness and persistence for using power to overcome power frequently backfires. Jesus is our model, through following Him the world will be transformed: slowly, but from a power that breaks down every evil motivation, every evil project. We change the world by hanging on to Christ for dear life, and make the kingdom of Heaven a reality here and now.

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