Isaiah 56:1, 6-7; Ps 67:2-3, 5,6,8; Romans 11:13-15, 29-32, Matthew 15:21-28
In the past months of my travels I have learned some new things that are helpful for my understanding of our church and world. One bishop described the church in three parts.
The first is those who still come to church and have been brought up or been to some extent evangelized as Catholics. Half of those do not know Jesus personally. This is a problem because they don’t know what God’s kingdom is about in the world. They don’t know the love and power Jesus comes to bring us.
The second level is those who need to be taught more about the faith. These need to be “catechized.” We can’t do that much in a Sunday homily at Mass with an audience of those from cradle to grave. We have all kinds of programs we can offer during the week but people are too busy with other things and not interested in “more faith.” That is a great problem.
The third level is those who have matured through the earlier levels and are qualified to evangelize those outside our church. In the past for the most part, our services were full enough with several Mass that we didn’t have to worry about numbers. Now older faithful have died, others moved away and 4 out of every one that came into the church have left, especially the young. Larger protestant churches learned how to evangelize because they needed more members to pay the salary of employees.
There is a fourth level. Most of your teenagers and young adults have left because the culture of the world has entrapped them. We can’t evangelize them as we did in the past. They are in a whole new culture. I call it a cyber, drug and relativistic culture. They are too busy with what seems to make them happy, much of which comes from the kingdom of darkness.
Who is Jesus?
Where are we headed? The first step is to look in the gospels for who Jesus really is. Who was He? Why did He come here and what did He do here that He is still doing through His faithful followers? Let’s just look at Matthew’s gospel. Jesus personally came only to convert the Jews. In chapter 15, Jesus was teaching his apostles and disciples (students), answering questions and, beginning with verse 27, had gone to the north away from Herod’s territory. This was the area where God settled the Jews after leaving Egypt. They had physically conquered the territory but not spiritually. Most still worshiped false gods. They were rather of mixed religious practices. Faithful Jews would have nothing to do with those people. Many in that area had heard about the supposed savior. And many wanted to see Jesus personally.
There was a woman in the area whose daughter “was possessed by a demon.” Not influenced by or harassed by but controlled by one. It always interested me as to how the woman knew that. She came begging Jesus for help. At first Jesus ignored her and then said He had come only for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” She knelt before Jesus and begged for mercy. Jesus said: “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She replied, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Jesus instantly healed her daughter and complimented her for her persistent and deep faith.
The grace of discernment
Where are we in our faith in Jesus? When the Bishop confirmed us, we were given many new graces for service. One of them was discernment. Simply, it is a grace to see what people and things around us belong to God’s kingdom. The Isaiah reading told us to join ourselves to God and do what is good and just, observe Sunday and serve others.
The second part of discernment is to know what I want to make me happy and to get ahead in life no matter what it does to others. Today we call that relativism.
And the third point of discernment is to see and know what belongs to the dark side, which is directed by and belongs to satan and his devils and the humans doing his work to take others off to hell. I could give many examples, and we all see it each day in the news broadcasts. If you tap into this gift you will begin to see where you stand in or outside God’s kingdom. With this gift we, like the possessed woman, will know to ask Jesus to free us.
If we haven’t make a commitment to move directly to Jesus from wherever we are, like the Canaanite women today, we can get more of the scraps that fall from Jesus’ table. Would you come with me closer to Jesus? Pray and ask His help. His hand will reach out to life you from “troubled water,” like Peter sinking in the water. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.
Have a blessed week,
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2017 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR)