Fr. Kevin’s Homily

Franciscan Center Homecoming, Sunday, August 20, 10am

A center is approached by many and varied paths.  The Canaanite woman this morning represents one path.  It is steep.  She is from cursed Canaan, home of the worship of Baal that the prophets denounced as seducing Israel into apostasy.  In such a place no lost sheep of the house of Israel were to be found.  Elijah had visited the widow of Zarephah in that same locality but the gospel throws emphasis on Tyre and Sidon, cities known for ostentatious wealth and display.  Against this torrid background of pagan excess and idolatry, she steps out into the presence of Jesus, close enough to be seen and her shouting to be heard.

Her greeting is as profound – Lord, Son of David, have mercy – as her plea heartfelt – my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.  But both greeting and plea meet with a cold and stony silence.  She has cast everything upon the throw.  She appears to have lost.  Given her background, where does her faith come from? It shouts its persistence – Lord, help me.  Again she is rebuffed – the children’s food is not shared with dogs.  There are already calls to show her the door.  Her response is a firm faith and a nimble wit – even the dogs eat the children’s crumbs. The Lord sees her authentic faith that shimmers with dignity and self-respect.  She abandons herself and her daughter to the Lord.  This abandonment is her path to the Lord and to her own Center.

Another, quite different example.  The Lady Clare, who died 770 years ago, found the path to her Center shared by a person, Francis, a path leading to a place, San Damiano, where she lived over 40 years.  Her Center was approached through poverty, especially the poverty of contemplation.  This led her to a poor and simple truth about herself.  In her contemplation she heard how much God cherished her.  She heard the invitation to be His beloved daughter in His Son, the poor and crucified Christ.  She was everything in God’s eyes and nothing in her own. Being thus cherished was her wisdom, poverty her great strength and beauty her joy.  This poverty of contemplative listening was her path to her own Center.

The Canaanite woman and Holy Mother Clare could not be more different but as they each approach her own Center their paths converge.  For all their real and vast differences, they would understand and embrace each other over the centuries and across cultures. This Franciscan Center knows their journeys, honors their stories and welcomes them home here.

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