From the 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.
After reading the Gospel, is there anything in particular that stands out for you? Consider the following questions.
I think about my life:
- What is God asking me to listen to?
- What does God want me to pay attention to?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding me to in this reading?
I think about my community and the world:
- What is God asking of us at this time?
- What is God wanting us to attend to in our community and our world?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding us towards?
This Gospel brings to mind our need to ask, just like the Canaanite woman, for Jesus to heal us. We all need, in one way or another, healing for our bodies when we are in pain, our minds when we are distressed and our spirits which become damaged by sin.
To encounter Jesus is to encounter the Father’s gift of wholeness.
The Canaanite Woman in the Gospel is another of the unnamed characters… she is herself, and she is all of us.
This woman’s words expressed real faith in Jesus and were in stark contrast to the lack of faith of the Jewish leaders who rejected Jesus. Jesus rewarded her faith by healing her daughter.
The account of Jesus’ encounter with this woman teaches us about the grace of God and about the trusting faith that is appropriate when we experience suffering. But there is another lesson. We are challenged to bring the message of God’s saving grace to the whole world.
In the context of this story it is important to recognise that it was unusual for Jesus to be visiting these towns and that it wasn’t normal for Jesus to interact with the Canaanite’s. However, these facts don’t discourage the woman in her desperate need. And despite her expression of both helplessness and faith, Jesus simply ignores her, as if she does not exist.
Do we feel that way sometimes when we make a specific and important petition to Jesus? Do we feel like he is really far away? That he is paying no attention? Do we feel like the disciples when Jesus is fast asleep on the boat in the storm? “Don’t you care that we are in danger?”
There are a number of lessons from this reading. The need for total trust and confidence that Jesus really does care for us. The need to persist in prayer – even if this does not always result in getting what we asked for. And finally, the Gospel is an affirmation that God’s love and mercy are extended to all who call on him in faith and trust, no matter who they are or where they are.
As baptised members of the Christian community, we have been given a special knowledge and access to God’s love. But we also have serious responsibilities arising from this. One of these responsibilities is to make clear to others by the way we live, speak and act, that God’s love and God’s mercy and God’s healing are for them also.