Letter from Fr. Keith (August 14)

Dear Parishioners and Friends of St. Dunstan’s,

On Sundays during Ordinary Time—the current season of the Church’s year—the first reading, gospel, and psalm are typically related. The second reading—from one of the New Testament letters, usually one attributed to St. Paul—most of the time is not directly related to the other scripture selections. This week is one of those rare occasions when all four bear resemblance. The theme they share?  The “foreigner.”

The people of Israel—and rightly so—saw themselves as God’s chosen. What they sometimes overlooked was the reason for their call and election. Yes, surely for their own sakes. They were reminded by the Lord, For you are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you out of all the peoples of the earth to be his people, his treasured possession. It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his heart on you and chose you—for you were the fewest of all peoples. It was because the Lord loved you (Deut. 7:6-8a).

God’s purpose, though, went beyond them. Through the prophet Isaiah, God reminded his people that their mission—in keeping with the divine vision and aspiration—extended beyond themselves. It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel: I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth (49:6).

The Canaanite woman whom Jesus encounters in the gospel belonged to the “nations.” In other words, she was a non-Jew, a foreigner. As such, many of the disciples would have assumed her outside the scope of who and what Jesus came to be and to do. One wonders what they thought when they heard the response of Jesus to her plea on behalf of her daughter: I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel (Mt. 15: 24). Her persistence pays off. Jesus assures her plea will be heard, after proclaiming in the hearing of all, Woman, great is your faith! (Mt. 15: 28). She is counted among the “all” to whom Paul, in the second reading, announces God will show mercy (Rom. 11: 32), an example of the responsorial psalm’s prayer that [God’s] way may be known upon earth, your saving power among the nations.

No-one is outside God’s concern and care. God shows no partiality, announced Peter, after realizing that God had sent an angel to Cornelius, the Roman centurion, reassuring him his prayer and sacrifice had been accepted (see Acts 10). Peter shouldn’t have been surprised, for Jesus, himself, had affirmed, I have other sheep who do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice… (Jn. 10:16).

As with Israel of old, so for us—the New Israel, the Church of Jesus Christ. We are God’s chosen: loved for our own sake and sent out to “announce the gospel of the Lord” to any and to all, ourselves a light to the nations, that [God’s] salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. Sent out, called to be mindful that those to whom we proclaim—by action as by word—are already beloved of God, among those he created and to whom he desires to show loving kindness. We aren’t superior by our election. We’re servants in imitation of the One who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28).

Religiously, socially, economically: the human family can learn something important from the word of God this Sunday. Though there exist many differences among us, we are united as children of God. God’s love—agree Isaiah, the psalmist, Paul, and Jesus—is offered to all who seek it. Sharing a common origin, we are called and empowered to deepen our mutual respect and love. Christians share a particular mission to be light to the nations, so that teaching may be ever more widely recognized and lived.

Last Saturday, we celebrated First Communion with 10 children and their families. Next Sunday, August 23, Bishop Richard will confirm three young people from our parish at the 11 o’clock Mass. Please keep all of them and our entire parish community in your prayer. For those of you who haven’t yet made the move to return to Mass, be assured that we regularly remember “our absent brothers and sisters.”

Once again, I want to recognize the devoted work of the more than 30 parishioners who take turns greeting everyone who comes to Mass, and diligently cleaning according to COVID-19 protocols afterward. New people are joining them. Anyone who’d like to help is most welcome. Contact jawhite5414@gmail.com, brhood12@hotmail.com, or saintdunstans@gmail.com or mention it to someone who greets you when you arrive.

I hope you are all keeping cool and well-hydrated as you either enjoy or endure the heat of summer. Rain is badly needed, especially by our farming community.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

Peace,

Fr. Keith

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