Resources - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
A: Matt 15:21-28 - The Canaanite woman - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
gospel does not portray Jesus in the best light. In fact, it is a pagan woman
who challenges Jesus who is presented well. In the passage prior to this reading,
Jesus has been explaining what makes a person 'clean' or 'unclean' and then travels
to gentile country which, according to the Pharisees, makes him 'unclean.' So
Jesus willingly goes to the region of Tyre and Sidon a place where good Jews do
not go where he encounters a Canaanite woman who cries out to him.
is rather shocking behaviour because she is a woman in a man's world, speaking
publicly to a male stranger. In a 1st Century Mediterranean world, men did not
speak to women in public, even if they were wife or daughter, the rules were very
strict. This woman has no shame because she is desperate to get help for her daughter,
so she risks everything and would not be quiet. Jesus ignores her.
nameless woman is doubly marginalised because she is a woman and she is a gentile
and Jesus states quite clearly that he has come to gather the lost sheep of Israel
- Jews only thank you. However, the woman's desperation, humility and faith impel
her towards Jesus and on her knees begs Jesus for help. What ensures is one of
the best debates in the Scriptures - brief, with great wit, humility and faith
- these are the essential attributes.
is convinced by the woman's arguments and so the pendulum swings from ignoring
her to Jesus giving her the most generous praise because she is the only person
in Matthew to be described as having "great faith." There would be numerous
times in our lives when we have repeated the woman's cry, "Lord, help me"
and imagined ourselves pleading at the feet of Jesus, desperate to hear words
of consolation and encouragement.
woman also teaches us to be confident in our relationship with God. Confident
and persistent in our convictions sure in the knowledge that God will always listen
to us. We who are not Jewish have her to thank that the Christian mission was
extended beyond the lost sheep of Israel out to all people. We see this mission
continuing today where God's message of love and salvation is offered to everyone.
We do not live in a perfect world and so it is up to us to remain on "mission"
as we live out our Baptism, nourished through Eucharist to be Christ in our part
of the world.
Ministry Resources 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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