Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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By Fr. ALFONSE NAZZARO
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.” …He said to her in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Was Christ learning? It’s been said that Jesus was unaware that his Father’s mission of redemption and salvation included gentiles. This interpretation has been used to explain today’s harsh words from the mouth of Jesus. But I find it to be absurd. Why? Because this wasn’t the Lord’s first encounter with a pagan. A few chapter before, the Lord was invited by a centurion to restore the health of his servant. The Lord didn’t call him a dog or a pagan or a monster. Instead, he asked the Roman official, “Shall I come and heal him?” Christ’s interest to help is not very surprising, but it is shocking because it meant walking straight into the home of a known sinner and enemy of Israel and defiling himself.
No. The Lord was not abrasive to the Canaanite woman because He didn’t know what to do with her or because He was torn. He was tough with her because He knew exactly what to do. He needed to make an example of faith out of her. And He did just that.
Great is your faith! How often have you felt abused by God? How often have you felt your face and your dignity slapped down by God? I think most of us have. So, what was your reaction? Was it similar to the Canaanite’s? I for one have never found it easy to respond with kindness to such bluntness. My natural reaction has always been an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, even if it meant getting all my teeth knocked out!
Let’s admit it. What she did very few people would do, even in today’s highly tolerant society. She was one incredibly unique individual. And let’s not forget: she wasn’t baptized; she hadn’t made her first communion; she hadn’t gone to CCD classes; she hadn’t been surrounded by saints all her life; she wasn’t attending Mass every Sunday. No! She was a natural…a natural Christian.
Come follow me! The Lord spent years forming the heart and mind of each one of His Apostles. After hearing hundreds of hours of sermons and learning countless lessons and parables and witnessing thousands of miracles, their initial reaction, to this woman’s pleas, must have left the Lord disheartened: “Lord, send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” But rather than rebuking them, He added fuel to their fire. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Yeah! That’s right! The Apostles must have thought. But they never imagined what would come forth from the mouth of a “dog.”
“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
The Apostles were stunned, not at the Lord, but at the woman’s response. They knew, they knew, how difficult it would have been for them to respond like this “dog.”
On this day, nearly two thousand years ago, a Canaanite woman went away with her head held high, while a group of Jewish disciples went off with their tail between their legs. (0)
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