Aug 18, 2008

Homily for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A.

Given at Cronulla on August, 17, 2008.

Readings: Is 56: 1,6-7; PS 67: 2-8; ROM 11: 13-15,29-32; MT 15: 21-28


There is a story about a Sydney man, who, together with his family, hosted a rabbi from Moscow one Christmas. To treat the rabbi to a culinary experience unavailable to him in Moscow, the Australian decided to take the Rabbi to their favourite Chinese restaurant. After the meal, the waiter brought the cheque and presented each person at the table with a small brass Christmas ornament as a complimentary gift. Everyone laughed when they turned the ornament over and read the label “Made in India.”  The laughter quickly subsided, when everyone saw tears running down the rabbi’s cheeks. The Sydney man asked the rabbi if he was offended at having been given a gift on a Christian holiday. Smiling, the rabbi shook his head and answered, “No, I was shedding tears of joy to be in such a wonderful country in which a Chinese Buddhist restaurant owner gives a Russian Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu in India.”


When Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI was recently in Sydney he met with Leaders of other Christian Communities and also leaders from other religious faiths.


At the gathering, Pope Benedict said that “Australia is a country marked by much ethnic and religious diversity. Australia is renowned for the congeniality of its people towards neighbour and visitor alike. Immigrants arrive on the shores of this majestic land hoping to find happiness and opportunities for employment. Yours, too, is a nation which recognizes the importance of religious freedom… Your country recognizes that a respect for this fundamental right gives men and women the latitude to worship God according to their conscience, to nurture their spirits, and to act upon the ethical convictions that stem from their beliefs… Religious Freedom… allows citizens to act upon values which are rooted in their deepest beliefs, contributing thus to the well-being of society. In this way, Christians cooperate, together with members of other religions, for the promotion of human dignity and for fellowship among all nations.”

In this brief paragraph, Pope Benedict makes 3 key points:

  1. The importance of religious freedom.
  2. Contribution made by people of faith to the well-being of society.
  3. Promotion of human dignity and fellowship among all nations.


My friends, today’s readings speak of the expansive nature of the “kingdom of God.” Although the Hebrew people were God’s chosen race, God included all nations in His plan for salvation and blessed all the families of the earth. By declaring through the prophet Isaiah (the first reading) “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” God reveals the truth that in His eyes there is no distinction among human beings on the basis of race, colour, or gender. 


Today’s psalm reinforces this point. “Let all the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.”


In the second reading, Paul admits that although the Jews were the chosen people, most of them denied the promised Messiah and consequently, the Gentiles – the non-Jews (the people who most of us are descended from) received mercy through their faith in Jesus.


In the Gospel, Jesus proves that salvation was meant for the gentiles as well as Jews, by healing the daughter of a gentile woman as a reward for her strong faith, proving that God's mercy and love are available to all who call out to Him in faith.


Very often we set up walls which separate us from one another and from God. Today's Gospel reminds us that God's love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in faith and trust in God, no matter who they are, where they come from, or how much money they have.


My friends, Christ did not begin the Church of Australia or the Church of Italy. Jesus Christ founded one Church – a community which was to unite people of every race, colour, gender and creed, so that God’s house should become a house of prayer for all peoples.


All the world is called to be the People of God, not just in terms of our Sunday worship, but we are called to overcome the divisions that exist within humanity. We are called to be one people.

Pope Benedict said: “My dear friends, I have come to Australia as an ambassador of peace. Our effort to bring about reconciliation between peoples springs from, and is directed to, that truth which gives purpose to life. Religion offers peace, but more importantly, it arouses within the human spirit a thirst for truth and a hunger for virtue. May we encourage everyone… to marvel at the beauty of life, to seek its ultimate meaning, and to strive to realize its sublime potential!” Religion offers peace, but it makes us thirst for truth and hunger for virtue.

We need to work, day in and day out to pull down every wall which separates and divides  humanity. These walls are not only racial or religious, but it may be age, financial ability, or political preferences.


Some of the older members of our congregation may remember the Berlin Wall being pulled down which united Germany. For many of us, the Olympics is helping to open China to the world.

But we think of others walls – the wall between Israel and Palestine.

Perhaps it is not a wall but a bridge – Tom Ugly’s or Taren Point. 

Perhaps it is a separation between parish school and parish church.


Pope Benedict said: “Men and women are endowed with the ability not only to imagine how things might be better, but to invest their energies to make them better. Who is not impressed by the power of the human spirit to set goals and to develop ways of achieving them?”

My friends, we must invest in the future of humanity.

Each of us has investments – they may be in a bank, the stock market or in property. How do each of us invest our energies to make the world and our Church a better place, a more united and peaceful people?


Pope Benedict said that within everyone human being is a “religious sense which is planted within the human heart. This leads us to meet the needs of others and to search for concrete ways to contribute to the common good. Religions… teach people that authentic service requires sacrifice and self-discipline, … cultivated through self-denial, temperance and a moderate use of the world’s goods.”


My friends, humanity is meant to be united, and religion is meant to unite us, not divide. Let us pray that the walls which we have raised will crumble.


What will each of us do? What investment will each of us make? I can’t tell you what to do. God has planted within each of our hearts what we are to do for our world, our Church, our community.

Something has to be done. Let’s take up the challenge and make a difference!


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