Spiritual Warfare Week 9: The Ingathering

(August 20, 2017)

Message: Spiritual warfare is not individualistic. We are part of a multitude - a great ingathering.

I have to admit I've been thinking about today's readings in relation to our all-parish Mass and picnic. The readings are appropriate because they focus on "in-gathering."

Let's start with St. Paul's letter to the Romans. He desires that his fellows Jews accept Jesus. He reminds them of their gifts and their call. And he states: "the gifts and call of God are irrevocable." For those of us who are not Jews by inheritance, we are like "wild olive branches" who have been grafted onto the Jewish tree. This has happened through Jesus. Jesus desires the great ingathering of both Jews and Gentiles.

We see that in the Gospel. When Jesus travels outside of Jewish territory a Canaanite woman asks him to minister to her daughter. Jesus insists that his ministry belongs to "the lost sheep...of Israel." So Israel, the Jewish people, have priority. At the same Jesus knows that the prophecies of ingathering refer not only for Jews but also to foreigners.

We have one of those prophecies in our first reading. Isaiah foresees a day when foreigners (non-Jews) would come to the Lord. Some of them would even become ministers to the Lord, bringing offerings and sacrifices. This privilege we can't achieve on our own - only through Jesus.

That ingathering begins today when Jesus responds to the Canaanite woman. Before looking at his positive response, let's start with the difficult part - his initial denial of the request. Jesus sometimes says "no" to our prayers.

Commenting on this Gospel, St. Jane Chantal says, "Hold fast to prayer and never give up. The one who lets go loses everything. If it seems no one is listening to you, cry out louder. If like the Canaanite woman, you are told you do not deserve the grace you asking for, affirm like her that you expect no unusual favors, but only to eat the crumbs that fall from the divine table."

In prayer persistence pays. To the Canaanite woman Jesus says, "O woman, how great is your faith! Let it be done as you wish."

This is a dramatic moment - a sign of the great ingathering.

I hope that we can see our Mass today as part of that ingathering. Each person has arrived here by their own route. Yet we are together in this Valley. We each have gifts and a call. I'm not saying it will be smooth sailing. It will cost something. After all we are in a spiritual war.

More about that next week when Jesus speaks about "gates of the netherworld" - the powers of hell. Against them he says, "I will build my church."

Spiritual warfare, as we see today, is not individualistic. We are part of a movement, a multitude - a great ingathering. Amen.


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From Archives (for Twentieth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2014: Finding Your Place Week 2
2011: Deep vs. Superficial Faith
2008: Help Me, Lord
2005: Culture Shock
2002: God's Favoritism
1996: Woman, How great is your faith!

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