Great Faith and Grasshoppers, Wednesday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I, August 7, 2013

Fr. Roger J. Landry
St. Bernadette Parish, Fall River, MA
Wednesday of the 18th Week of Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Sixtus II and Companions
August 7, 2013
Numb 13:1-2.25-14.1.26-29.34-35, Ps 106, Mt 15:21-28

To listen to an audio of this homily, please click here: 


The following points were made in this homily:

  • In the readings we see a large contrast between faith and the lack of it, which helps us to see whether we’re growing in faith during this Year of Faith.
  • In the first reading, God tells the Israelites that he is planning to give them the land of Canaan, the land that he had given to Abraham five centuries earlier. But they didn’t have faith in his words, even after witnessing all his miracles in setting them free from the Egyptians. They said that their potential opponents were like giants and they were like grasshoppers. Even with God on their side, they didn’t feel up to the task because they really didn’t believe that the Lord who had freed them from the Egyptians could fulfill his promises about the promised land.
  • We see a huge contrast to this doubt in the Gospel. This woman, culturally, was a grasshopper and Jesus seemed to treat her in that way, but it never dissuaded her from acting out of love for her daughter. Jesus tested her by treating her in this way so that she grow. In response to her entreaties, Jesus first ignored her and didn’t say a thing, then said that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, not to pagans like those in Tyre, then he said that it’s not right to take the food of the children and throw them to the dogs (the food of the giants and give it to the grasshoppers). But none of that dissuaded her. Her response that even the little dogs eat the food that falls from the master’s table was an act of faith that she knew Jesus would be Lord and Good Shepherd even of the chihuahuas and grasshoppers. That led Jesus to exclaim, “Woman, great is your faith!,” the greatest compliment he gave in the Gospel, and something he wishes to say about any of us.
  • St. Sixtus had this type of unconquerable faith and trust in God. Even after the emperor Valerian decreed in 258 that all bishops, priests and deacons should be arrested and executed, he still went to celebrate Mass around the tombs of his papal predecessors in the catacombs, which were not clandestine places for Christian worship but well known to the authorities. That’s where they were found, arrested and led to execution. Even though they were like grasshoppers before the giant Roman power, they remained faithful to the Lord and all his promises, and crossed on this day into the eternal promised land. We ask them to intercede for us that we might be just as courageous in our faith as they were, as the Syro-Phoenician woman was, as we prepare to receive now far more than crumbs from this altar.

The readings for the Mass were: 

Reading 1
NM 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26A-29A, 34-35

The LORD said to Moses [in the desert of Paran,]
“Send men to reconnoiter the land of Canaan,
which I am giving the children of Israel.
You shall send one man from each ancestral tribe,
all of them princes.”After reconnoitering the land for forty days they returned,
met Moses and Aaron and the whole congregation of the children of Israel
in the desert of Paran at Kadesh,
made a report to them all,
and showed the fruit of the country
to the whole congregation.
They told Moses: “We went into the land to which you sent us.
It does indeed flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit.
However, the people who are living in the land are fierce,
and the towns are fortified and very strong.
Besides, we saw descendants of the Anakim there.
Amalekites live in the region of the Negeb;
Hittites, Jebusites, and Amorites dwell in the highlands,
and Canaanites along the seacoast and the banks of the Jordan.”Caleb, however, to quiet the people toward Moses, said,
“We ought to go up and seize the land, for we can certainly do so.”
But the men who had gone up with him said,
“We cannot attack these people; they are too strong for us.”
So they spread discouraging reports among the children of Israel
about the land they had scouted, saying,
“The land that we explored is a country that consumes its inhabitants.
And all the people we saw there are huge, veritable giants
(the Anakim were a race of giants);
we felt like mere grasshoppers, and so we must have seemed to them.”At this, the whole community broke out with loud cries,
and even in the night the people wailed.The LORD said to Moses and Aaron:
“How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me?
I have heard the grumblings of the children of Israel against me.
Tell them: By my life, says the LORD,
I will do to you just what I have heard you say.
Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall.
Forty days you spent in scouting the land;
forty years shall you suffer for your crimes:
one year for each day.
Thus you will realize what it means to oppose me.
I, the LORD, have sworn to do this
to all this wicked assembly that conspired against me:
here in the desert they shall die to the last man.”

Responsorial Psalm
PS 106:6-7AB, 13-14, 21-22, 23

R. (4a) Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
We have sinned, we and our fathers;
we have committed crimes; we have done wrong.
Our fathers in Egypt
considered not your wonders.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
But soon they forgot his works;
they waited not for his counsel.
They gave way to craving in the desert
and tempted God in the wilderness.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
They forgot the God who had saved them,
who had done great deeds in Egypt,
Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham,
terrible things at the Red Sea.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.
Then he spoke of exterminating them,
but Moses, his chosen one,
Withstood him in the breach
to turn back his destructive wrath.
R. Remember us, O Lord, as you favor your people.

MT 15: 21-28

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But he did not say a word in answer to her.
His disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed from that hour.