Homily – August 16, 2020

XX Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A

A building is defined as a structure consisting of 4 walls and a roof – such as a house … A house is defined as a building for human habitation, one that is lived in by a family or a small group of people. A house also could be defined as a place where people meet or gather for a particular activity … for instance a “house of prayer.” We might call a “house of prayer” a church because of the significance of the activity that takes place here – it is not just a structure with 4 walls and a roof. The building itself has a particular meaning.

By Divine command, King Solomon – son of King David – built the Temple in Jerusalem. It was, for the Jews in the Old Testament period, the central place of worship … their whole lives centered around the Temple – their way of life, culture, laws, worship … all of which hinged on this place – this building, this house of prayer. You might recall Jesus, in Matthew’s Gospel, sweeps through the Temple turning over tables shouting these very words of the Prophet Isaiah – “my house shall be called a house of prayer” … Indicating to us that there is something more significant to the Temple than just walls and a roof. Now, in Isaiah’s words in the first reading, he is speaking after the Israelites have been exiled and how the Temple, once rebuilt will find a new mission – open to all peoples and nations. Jesus interaction with the Canaanite woman – a foreigner – seems to drive home that point … Its significance, however, remains the same – as the central place of life and worship for the Jewish people, it is the place of encounter with God.

This rings true for us today … our church buildings are not just a set of walls with a roof … it is not just a place where people gather for a particular activity … The church is the place to encounter God … where we meet the Lord. And in this house of prayer, in this place of encounter – thanks to the universal sacrifice of Jesus Christ – all people … no matter their race, nationality, etc … are welcome here. The mission of the Church, which is the mission of Christ, is to draw all people to come to encounter with God … But notice too the words of Isaiah are specific – those who draw near, who come to this house of prayer, are to keep holy the Sabbath, must not profane it, hold fast to the covenant of God … Their way of life, how they live, think, speak and act are all connected to the One whom they encounter in the Temple …

Friends, the same holds true for us… our little church here – and every Catholic Church – is the house of prayer spoken of by Isaiah … all peoples are welcome here because our God is here – under the form of bread and wine He makes Himself present to us, thus making this building, this house of prayer, a place of encounter with God. This is what our church buildings mean … they are not just places for family memories and photo-ops … here, we meet God, we are in His presence. This is particularly why the church is open during the day … this is why we have adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction … so that you have opportunities to encounter Him, to meet Him, to be in His presence. Take advantage of these ways … you don’t need to sign up or ask permission – just come …

This is what makes the dialogue between the woman and Jesus in our gospel so beautiful – she shows perseverance, she goes to Him, she persists … she displays a great faith … When we pursue Jesus, when we come to Him in the place where He is present to us, when we speak to Him, and listen to His words, and spend time in His presence – He hears us and that prayer is always fruitful …

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