20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - It's All About Relationship

When you stop and think about it, the message of Jesus was a simple one: to make us aware that the Good News of our salvation is a reality and that we are loved unconditionally by God. It was one of invitation - and one of challenge. The message and mission of Jesus did not end with His death and resurrection; it continues on in each us. The Spirit of God permeates and enlivens us just as it did Jesus 2000 years ago, and we are to be the people who continue what he did. This is what church is all about. It is about a people who believe they are Spirit-filled, called to continue and spread the good news that has as its source, Jesus the Christ.

In His time, Jesus knew that he couldn't force anyone to accept His message and to change their hearts; but there were many who were yearning, who wanted to embrace the invitation. The Canaanite woman in today's Gospel was one of them. She came to the Lord seeking His help and must have been totally taken aback at His seemingly cold response. But that didn't stop her.

Throughout His entire ministry, Jesus tried to teach His disciples that the Gospel message does not admit to geographical, national, racial or religious limitations. In today's Gospel, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus and cries out for His help. But the disciples press Him to "get rid of her." What they meant, of course, was "She is not one of us. She is a Gentile woman. Your mission is to us, not to outsiders."

Jesus was looking for faith and trust among the people of His own community, and found greater faith within an outsider. He knew that what He was asking was not easy. He knew the ramifications of living out the Gospel message, the responsibilities that His followers would be taking upon themselves to really live the Good News, and to make His Spirit their own. So, Jesus did not withhold His love and compassion from this "outsider." He cured the Canaanite woman's daughter.

The atmosphere in which Jesus accomplishes His mission has to be one based on faith and trust; it has to be one in which a person can be supported, be encouraged… and one in which concern and compassion are evident. At every opportunity, Jesus tried to bring out the positive aspects of life, the worth and value of each person. In doing that He challenged people to look deeply into themselves, and to make changes in their lives.

It was - and is - all about "relationship."

We are sent by Jesus to create such an environment - an environment of understanding, one of faith and trust, and of compassion. We are called to create the possibility for others to become present to themselves; we are to become a center of communion, a community where we cease to be anonymous, where we recognize one another as sisters and brothers, loving one another and caring for one another not because we need them, but simply for themselves. We have been chosen by name, and have been called to create an environment in which healing takes place, where one is forgiven and reconciled, where concern is fostered, where one feels a sense of belonging.

By all human standards, Jesus' mission was a total failure. At the end of his life, there was no human fame or glory for Jesus. He did not see his dream fulfilled - people still lived in fear and mistrust of one another - those in power seemed to have the upper hand. He wept in frustration over the city of Jerusalem; He agonized at the brink of despair in the Garden of Olives. He was abandoned, betrayed and denied by his friends. And yet despite all of this, he reached down deep within Himself and simply refused to give up His conviction that God is ultimately good, and gracious, and to be trusted absolutely.

Christ invites us to share in that conviction; to grow in our faith. Not only do we need to articulate what it means that "Jesus lives within us" - but we need to really believe it and to live it. Only then can we truly have a genuine Christian spirituality.