The courage to speak and the courage to be changed

The courage to speak and the courage to be changed

Readings for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

The healing given to the Canaanite woman’s daughter is certainly a key focus for today. Yet we have clues in the first reading and responsorial psalm that draw our attention to a deeper message.

In the first reading, psalm, and Gospel reading, the common thread is that God is keenly attentive to those who are the outsider, the foreigner, and those whom some in our society would say don’t belong. The pity shown and the healing given are the result of Jesus’ attention to this stranger. The uncomfortable dialogue they share shows that even Jesus’ view of who belongs in the household of God changes and is widened by the woman’s courage, persistence, and faith.

Just imagine how difficult it must have been to stand up as an outsider and a woman to this group of men who seem to obviously not want her there. Imagine how much courage it might have taken someone sitting in your pews today to even decide to come to church, where they may feel uncomfortable because they don’t know the rituals or anyone there. There is likely someone in your pews today who, though feeling unwanted, unnoticed, and uncared for, has decided to give the Church a second chance. How will you respond today to their plea? How will you help them find healing?


This post was first published on the planner page for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, in “GIA Quarterly: A Liturgical Music Journal,” Vol 28, No 2.

An added note, in light of the events of Charlottesville and the urgent need for our preachers to “interpret peoples’ lives in such a way that they will be able to celebrate Eucharist—or be reconciled with God and one another…” (Fulfilled in Your Hearing, #52):

Dear Bishops, priests, deacons, and any who will be preaching this Sunday and the following several Sundays,
and dear liturgy coordinators, music ministers, and intercession writers,

Many of you stood before your assemblies last Sunday and gave the “tiny whispering sound” of the Holy Spirit space to name the storm of racism. Without fully knowing what words you would speak, you trusted that the Spirit would teach you at that moment what you should say, and you preached. In your humility and courageous words, you showed us that through Christ, by our daily works of mercy and prophetic witness, justice and peace shall indeed kiss. For this, thank you.

I know many of you stayed up late the night before or worked in between Masses to start over and change your homily, intercessions, or music choices. You worried, prayed, and pondered what, in God’s name, you could say in the face of such overt sin, and how you could say it so we would hear and take it to heart—especially when we often do not recognize that sin within our own selves. For this, thank you.

I know many of you could only bear to speak a few words, hoping that with God’s grace they would be enough for now. For this, thank you.

If you said anything at all when we prayed with you last Sunday thirsting for a word to rouse us, that could begin to heal all of us, thank you.

Whether you spoke or you remained silent, we have great hope because we have a God of second chances. This Sunday—and every Sunday—kairos comes again. It is the perfect opportunity to proclaim Christ and be changed by Christ, who himself was changed by the plea of the Canaanite woman to give her something, even if it were scraps.

We, like that woman, are hungering for that tiny morsel of hope from you that will give us a bit more strength and courage to be disciples in these turbulent days. Please, help us.

Some who came to our churches last Sunday were longing to be fed by a word that saw their pain and anger and helped them trust that God sees it too. But they were sent away empty. Some of them will return, giving us a second chance. And yet, I assure you, there will be someone in your pews this Sunday for whom this is the last chance they will give the church to speak a word that hears their cry. Please do not let this chance pass you by.

With you, and for you, we pray that God will open your lips so that your mouth will proclaim God’s praise.

Image credit: Mike Wilson, unsplash, CC0.

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