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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A 2020 – Is 56:1, 6-7, Mt 15:21-28

1) Back in Nanuet

2) In 1978 I was part of the school concert choir.

3) We sang in several concerts during the year,

a) but one that I remember particularly well

b) was a “spring” concert, sometime before Memorial Day.

4) I remember the Memorial Day part of it

a) because of a choral piece we practiced all spring.

5) It was sung to the text of Emma Lazarus’ poem the New Colossus.

a) Unfamiliar? Well, let me refresh your memory

b) because we’ve all heard it before.

i) “Send me your tired, you poor,

ii) your huddled masses yearning to be free,

iii) the wretched refuse of your teeming shore,

iv) Send these, the homeless tempest-tossed to me

v) I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

6) This song was, is the only song I remember from that concert.

7) I remember the poem

a) because the choir director told us

i) you could read it on a plaque,

ii) affixed to the base of the Statue of Liberty.

8) I remember it

a) because he told us that the poem was placed there

i) because Lady liberty was seen by so many people,

ii) coming to America through New York Harbor and Ellis Island.

9) I remember it

a) because in that choir were

i) the Jewish grandchildren of Holocaust survivors,

ii) Italian kids whose grandparents spoke Italian

(1)and whose parents could too.

b) There were kids like me,

i) with names like Van Houten and Onderdonk

ii) whose roots in New York

(1)went back to the end of the 18th century at least,

c) and kids like my best friend Carmel,

i) whose parents were Irish immigrants,

(1)who came over in the 1950’s..

10) And I realized that none of us there would be here,

a) had our foremothers and fathers,

i) not come from somewhere else,

ii) and found our way through that golden door.

11) For I was also studying European history,

a) with its endless stories of kings and dictators,

b) whose rule was rooted in race and religion,

c) or “Blut und Boden”- blood and earth,

i) as the Germans ominously maintained.

12) We were learning that America is different.

13) It is a land based on ideals not ideology

a) It is a republic, not ruled by royalty,

i) and in this country,

ii) everyone willing to contribute was welcome

14) It was that year that I fell in love with our country

a) Because I believed in America’s difference

i) and in that golden door.

15) The people of Judah had a very different understanding of who they were.

a) From their very beginning they had believed they were special;

i) their specialness came from the fact they were chosen. By God.

ii) And their God, the one true God,

(1)would always fight for them.

16) But then in the 6th century BC

a) they were conquered and forced into exile in Babylon.

17) They discovered that their reality

a) was far less than their dream,

18) and they had to figure out a new way to be God’s people.

a) By the time of the writing of this morning’s first reading,

i) The people of Judah, God’s people,

ii) Had been given the permission to do something

(1)Which only a few years before would have been unthinkable;

iii) To return from that exile to their Promised Land.

(1)Prophets promised that the journey home would be exciting!

(2)Prophets promised that the Promised Land would be amazing!

iv) However - now there would be a difference:


(a) such as the one who spoke the words in today’s first reading

(b) promised that now not just they would be special not just they would be chosen,

(c) but that people would come, but from all over the world;

(2) and join themselves the people of Judah,

(3)They would stream into God’s Temple

(a) Which would now be a house for all people to pray in.

19) The reading today practically cries out to us:

20) “Jerusalem is opening its doors to the world

i) and all are welcome!”

21) Such beautiful dreams are so attractive.

a) They make us want to believe

b) that there is a place where all are welcome.

c) They make us want to believe that America is that place;

i) the fulfilment of the prophets’ dreams.

d) Emma Lazarus’ poem on the Statue of Liberty made me,

i) and generations of other Americans believe this.

22) Which was why it was so surprising

a) when we began to debate

i) removing it from the statue;

ii) or at least rewriting it.

23) And before we rush to judgment about the political party responsible for such things

a) the push came from both directions;

i) Both from conservatives

(1)who said that is NOT the way we want America to be;

ii) and from liberals

(1)who said that is not the way we are.

24) Both agreed that it was false advertising;

25) For despite the fact that our nation was built

i) by the beautiful dream of people

ii) streaming in from all the nations of the world hoping to find freedom.

b) The reality in our case is also far less than the dream.

26) It always is. It was for the people of Judah in Jesus’ day as well.

a) For they are the descendants of those people

b) who 500 years earlier

c) believed the words in today’s first reading,

i) and returned to the Promised Land.

d) It was the Promised Land all right;

i) but what a disappointing promise.

e) They returned to a ruined city in a desolate land.

f) As a result, they were forced to rebuild;

i) And they built a land with walls like any other,

g) Some of those walls were made of bricks and mortar.

h) But there were other walls; and we see them

i) When Jesus says to the Canaanite woman,

(1)pleading for help for her possessed daughter in today’s Gospel,

(2)“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” and

(3)“It is not right to take the food of the children

(4)and throw it to the dogs.”

27) These sentiments would have been absolutely familiar

a) to the people in Matthew’s day

i) and let’s face it they are to us as well.

b) For it was as common for people in Matthew’s Church

i) to believe that Jesus had been sent to them,

ii) was meant for them,

iii) and thus belonged to them,

c) As it is for us to believe that because we are Catholic,

i) with masses at our altars

ii) and tabernacles in our churches,

(1)that Jesus belongs to us.

28) And if that woman,

a) after hearing those sentiments had just left,

b) well then, those sentiments would be affirmed.

29) But she does not;

a) she uses her brains

b) and her wit

c) and challenges Jesus’ parroting the prejudices of his people;

30) And Jesus, proclaiming her great faith

a) performs a miracle on the spot for her,

b) healing her possessed daughter.

31) This story might not mean that much to us;

32) but it sure did to Matthew and his church

a) For to say that this Canaanite; this Gentile, this outsider,

b) this woman with a demon possessed daughter

i) was deserving of all the benefits of someone

ii) who belonged to God’s people

33) would be as shocking as it would be for us to say

a) . . . that anyone coming through that door

i) was as deserving of all the sacraments,

ii) all the graces, all the benefits we are,

iii) because we belong to the Catholic Church.

34) And for the same reason;

a) for in proclaiming that this Canaanite woman was just as welcome as anyone else;

b) Jesus was breaking down those walls,

c) destroying those barriers,

d) and fulfilling the promise made in the first reading.

35) With one difference.

a) For Jesus that place with open doors where all are welcome,

b) That place where people stream in from all the nations of the world,

36) Sadly, isn’t a place. It was not Jerusalem; it is not America.

37) WE can strive to make so,

38) but as long as we ARE a land of ideals and not ideology,

39) A republic and not ruled by royalty,

40) We must again and again debate and decide

a) the degree to which that golden door is open and to whom.

41) NO, for Jesus that place

a) is a moment.

i) That moment when we recognize in a stranger that desire to belong

ii) That moment when we invite them to come and see.

iii) It is that moment when all of us gather like we do here

iv) From different nations and cultures

v) And we share our doubts and concerns, our joys and our hopes

vi) Around this one altar

vii) And we become a house of prayer

(a) for anyone;

(b) for everyone

(i) a house of prayer for all peoples.

b) But just like in the Gospel,

i) it is a moment that has effects; or at least it should.

(1)For we live it in here,

(a) so we can learn to live it out there.

(2)And thus,

(a) it effects the way we treat people at work

(3)As well as the way we treat our family at home

(a) It effects the way we think

(4)And it effects the way we vote

(a) in that great debate

(b) which roils our country to this day.

(5)OR at least it should – how can it not?

ii) Because here in this place we glimpse the promise

(1)made in the first reading,

(2)and embodied in the Gospel,

(a) A promise that the doors are open

(b) and all are welcome.

(c) . . . Or at least they should be.

(d) But then as always, that part is up to us.

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