Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time—17–23, August 2020.
Part One: Scripture
Divine mercy breaks through “holy” boundaries; it transgresses human notions of boundaries. The readings of Isaiah and the Gospel of Matthew for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary time exemplify this boundary-busting divine mercy.
Isaiah 56 is a poem of invitation for all foreigners to “join” themselves to God. Lovingly and tenderly, God promises to give an “eternal name” to all those who “hold fast to my covenant” (v. 1) and who have “chosen what I desire” (vv. 4-5). The Jerusalem Temple will become a home for ALL people who serve and love God (vv. 6-7). Isaiah’s is a message of inclusion as well as a warning: not only will God break down barriers to include those on the “outside,” but through their actions of fidelity, those on the outside could become the insiders, “better than sons and daughters” (v. 5).
Following this reading from Isaiah, we turn to one of the most difficult encounters in the Gospel. Inexplicably Jesus turns north crossing the boundary between Israel into Tyre and Sidon (contemporary Lebanon). There, he encounters an unnamed Canaanite woman. His exchange with this woman disorients our understanding of Jesus—she seems to become the teacher, and he becomes the student. The woman recognizes Jesus as the Jewish Messiah or “Son of David” and cries out to him as “Lord”—“have pity” (or mercy) on my daughter.
When she continues to cry out, he calls her a “dog” and states that his mission is to “feed” the children of Israel. She responds creatively: “even the dogs eat the scraps from the table.” Jesus then acknowledges that her “great faith” has collapsed the boundaries and impelled the healing of her child.
Naturally, we often fixate on Jesus’ name-calling in this passage. Or is Jesus testing her? The reality is that we do not know. We also miss the point by becoming so focused on Jesus’ statement, when the true focus of the passage is the women’s agency and her remarkable expression of faith.
These readings offer us a kaleidoscope of perspectives. Perhaps we sympathize with outsiders. We regularly take on the role of the unnamed women when we repeat her words liturgically: “Kyrie Eleison” (Lord, have mercy). Or perhaps we relate to the insiders, maybe even Jesus himself, whose idea of who is “in” seems to constantly evolve and expand.
Is not our human inclination to exclude as natural as it is boring? What is truly exciting is the ability to push ourselves beyond the boundaries, as Jesus does, reaching to touch the divine mercy that knows no boundaries. The result is a mercy that is truly stunning*
*Mahri Leonard-Fleckman, Associate Professor of Hebrew Scriptures College of Holy Cross, Worchester, MA.
Part Two: Re-Opening Churches
Cardinal Tobin dispenses the faithful from the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days. Those who are at risk because of an underlying health issues or who are 60 years old or older are strongly encouraged to avoid attending public celebrations of Mass because it carries the risk of contagion. We will continue to live-stream the Sunday Mass in Spanish at 9:00 a.m. and in English at 11:00 a.m.
Please subscribe to the parish YouTube channel. It is free to subscribe.
YouTube channel: Saint Lucy.
Please pre-register online or by phone if you intend to attend Sunday Mass in person. Registration enables us to maintain “social distancing.” The occupancy of the church is currently set at 100. This number may be raised later.
In Phase 3 it is no longer necessary to open the church for personal and private prayer from noon until 3:00 p.m.
St. Lucy celebrates publically weekday Masses, funerals, weddings, and baptisms. Before each Mass, the church will be opened 15 minutes for personal and private prayer. The church will be locked after Mass.
Covid-19 Testing—St. Lucy will offer freely Coronavirus testing on Wednesday and Thursday August 26 – 27 from Noon to 7 p.m. and on Friday, 28 August from 10:00 to 5:00 p.m. The affair will take place in the basement of the Rectory