Sunday, August 17, 2014

Preaching Jesus Christ, the breaker of barriers

It has been quite awhile, almost a year, in fact, since I have offered any critical notes on preaching that arise from being a member of a congregation listening to a preacher. Considering our readings for today, the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, which tells of Jesus' encounter with Canaanite woman in the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matt 15:21-28), it is clear that Jesus breaks down barriers by offering, not the salvation He came to bring, but the salvation He is to everyone, making all who trust in Him members of His chosen and holy people. This was made most explicit by St Paul in his Letter to the Galatians, even as it is noted far less explicitly in our second reading for today, taken from the apostle's Letter to the Romans: "Thus Abraham 'believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.' Realize then that it is those who have faith who are children of Abraham. Scripture, which saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, foretold the good news to Abraham, saying, 'Through you shall all the nations be blessed.' Consequently, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham who had faith" (Gal 3:6-9).

With that lead-in I offer the following observations:

Consider this:

When preaching on the universal salvation offered by God through Christ, who breaks down barriers, as exhibited by today’s Gospel, you must be careful not to veer off into universalism, even by implication, or just plain sloppiness. Preaching on certain things requires the preacher “to do” theology. When you choose to preach on a theme, like the universal salvation offered in Christ, please do your homework.

Jesus and the Canaanite woman, by Juan de Flandes, ca. 1500

Consider this:

Not everyone who has died is in heaven. As Catholics, in addition to heaven and hell, we dogmatically believe in Purgatory. Also, the Church is the ordinary and normative means of salvation. Hence, the Church, baptism, the Eucharist, are not incidental to anyone’s salvation, even those who might be saved extraordinarily. Let's assist each other in avoiding the trap of presumption. The Canaanite woman is a great model for not being presumptuous, by-the-way. Her humility, persistence, and love presents us a great reason why we need to ground our theology in Scripture rather than trying to use Scripture as a jumping-off point for our theological pre(mis)conceptions.

Frankly, I fail to see the efficacy of pointing people away from Christ’s Body, the Church.

No comments:

Post a Comment