St. John Fisher Roman Catholic Church

30 Jones Hollow Road, Marlborough, CT 06447

Isaiah talks of the anointed one sent by God to bring glad tidings to the poor. John was sent from God (not “by” – a whole other homily) to testify to the light coming into the world. People from Jerusalem sent priests, Levites, and Pharisees to find out who is this man wearing strange clothes and eating an even stranger diet but nonetheless attracting “people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”[1].

The 3rd definition of “preparation” in the American Dictionary of the English Language1 reads: “a preliminary measure that serves to make ready for something”.

In the center of Marlborough we’ve seen preliminary site work for a Big Y Supermarket and Pharmacy. Former buildings have been torn down. There’s been excavating done, fill trucked in, leveling and compacting of that fill, and pipes are ready to be placed in the ground for drainage. It has taken some time, years in fact; and we are impatient its completion. We hope that the day will arrive when we can have a full service grocery store in town. It’s coming!

The Season of Advent has one foot in the past and one in the future. We are getting ready for the celebration of Christmas once again with joyful anticipation. We are also preparing for the return in glory of Jesus, maybe with somewhat lesser anticipation and perhaps a little trepidation.

Initially I was going to talk about how we are tenants in vineyard of the Lord and how Pope Francis in his encyclical Laudato Si , on Care for Our Common Home, that the vineyard, our earth, is crying out to us, and I quote, “because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her” (LS #2). He goes on to say: “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life” (#2) “by our presuming to take the place of God and refusing to acknowledge our creaturely limitations” (#66).

Matthew 21:28-32

A little context is needed to appreciate more fully this passage. In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus had already triumphantly entered Jerusalem, gone to the temple area, overturned the money changers tables and the seats of those selling doves for sacrifice, and, and quoting Isaiah, proclaimed that God’s house shall “be a house of prayer but you are making it a den of thieves”. He then leaves the city, going to Bethany where he spends the night.

We Christians sometimes forget an inconvenient truth that as a result of the Incarnation, Jesus in his humanity was born into a particular culture at a particular time and was subject to the particular prejudices that were present. Oh sure, he pushed its boundaries from time to time; but he was still influenced by the mores of the times.

Case in point: today’s Gospel where for quite a while he is shown to be acting, well, unchristian. Jesus had approached pagan land. To identify the woman Matthew uses a term that was passé at the time: Canaanite, the original settlers in the land that the Jewish people had conquered and who remained somewhat hated enemies ever since. Jesus at first ignored her. The disciples then pleaded with Jesus to send her away. He answered that he didn’t come for anyone but the lost sheep of Israel, effectively cutting her and anyone else that was not Jewish from his mercy, compassion, and salvation. But she wouldn’t give up. She knelt in front of him and begged him. Finally he answered with a rebuke, calling her a dog, a non-person. She cleverly used his answer to cause him to look at her in a different way, recognizing her faith. Jesus was taught a lesson by a foreign woman: to pay attention to those outside his personal mission as he thought to be; you never know where you will find faith.

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