TWENTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Today we hear about the Canaanite woman who badgered Jesus when he was trying to get a little rest and prayer time with his disciples. This woman would not take no for an answer. It was her daughter who was demon possessed, and Jesus had the power to cure her.
What follows, however, might leave us a bit bewildered. First, Jesus refuses to speak to the Canaanite woman at all. Then he rejects her plea, and rejects it rather rudely. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” How unlike Jesus. What got into him? Was he angry because his short vacation was interrupted? Or was he restating what he had been saying all along – that his mission was only to the Israelites, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, his own people, and not to the Gentiles and pagans?
It is important for us to recall some key facts about Jesus. He was a Jew intent on aiding and encouraging his own people to return to God. In the beginning, the salvation of the Jews was his sole objective. As was often said in the Old Testament, the Jewish people, in their obedience and love of God, were to be a light to the whole world. That’s also what Jesus wanted them to become – the light of the world, the salt of the earth.
However, Jesus did not care only for the house of Israel. He simply intended to bring the opportunity of the gospel to them first. He had to start somewhere. There would be enough spiritual food to fill every hunger by the time the work of Jesus was finished. But it would start first in Israel and be offered first to the chosen people of God there. Jesus does not love Israel more than others or instead of others. Jesus just began his mission there.
But that still doesn’t explain the seeming rudeness of the response of Jesus to this woman. This is one of those gospel mysteries that we seem unable to explain fully. Whatever the abrupt response of Jesus, the woman is not fazed or put off. She comes right back at Jesus saying, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” She got him with that line, and Jesus knew it. I’ll bet he smiled and congratulated her for her courage, her persistence and her great love for her daughter. She was willing to do anything, to endure anything in order to help her daughter. And so Jesus rewards her for her great faith and perseverance. Her child is cured.
What is the lesson in this gospel for us? To put it simply, don’t stand on ceremony when you approach God in your prayer. I was taught when I was growing up that when I approached God in prayer, my prayer – be it petition, contrition, praise or gratitude - needed to always be nice, polite, respectful and well mannered.
But this Canaanite woman teaches us to come before God as we are, with all that is on our mind and in our hearts. We need not be afraid to tell God what we are really thinking and feeling. Are you angry, frustrated, confused, full of doubts or questions, frightened, anxious or despairing? Share this with God. Vent your spleen at God. God will not strike you down with lightning for doing so. God wants our prayer to be honest, sincere and real. No relationship between two people can deepen and grow in intimacy if it is only nice and polite. The best and most intimate relationships are characterized by respectful honesty. This courageous Canaanite woman invites us to speak our minds when we approach God. Then trust that God will listen and respond to you much as a loving parent responds to a child in need. By being honest, open, and real with God we open ourselves up to developing a deeper and more intimate relationship with our God who loves us with a love that is even greater than the love of this feisty women for her child in our gospel story today.
We now return to our celebration of the Eucharist. After professing our faith, and may we follow the example of the Canaanite women by presenting to God the honest and sincere prayers and desires of our minds and hearts. – Fr. Paul
NINETEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
There was no homily for the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Fr. Savio Samala spoke at all our Masses about the Society for Family and Children's Education. S FACE is committed to answering the call of the Gospel to "hear the cries of the poor" by means of Evangelization through education; believes all children should have access to a Christian education regardless of their age, gender, culture, country of origin or the socioeconomic situation of the families; provides a post-secondary education for the young in India with a future global and educational Christian vision for Evangelization; believes that the love of Jesus Christ empowers youth to overcome poverty so they may live a more dignified life. For more information, visit www.sfacemission.org.