August 7, 2019 – Wednesday 18th Week in Ordinary Time
From the Gospel of Matthew (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.
Have you ever been insulted, discriminated and rejected by the people whom you thought would help you and show you mercy?
Certainly, we would feel hurt, broken-hearted, ashamed or even angered. I expected such feelings also from the Canaanite woman who approached Jesus. And he seemingly gave a cold and harsh treatment towards her. However, the persistence of the woman and Jesus’ indirect teaching to his disciples make the story more interesting. Let us see a bit deeper, then, the Gospel today.
This Gospel story tells us that Jesus with his disciples withdrew to Tyre and Sidon, a region of the Gentiles. Gentiles were considered by the Jews at that time to be unclean. However, Jesus went there on purpose to teach something to his disciples.
That purpose of Jesus culminated in the appearance of the Canaanite woman who sought healing for her daughter. The woman, as a gentile was considered like a dog to the Jews. Even though Jesus reminded her of this discrimination from the Jews, the woman did not lose any courage and faith to approach Jesus. The woman believed that though she was undeserving of God’s mercy, but she asked for it anyway not for herself but for her sick daughter.
This was what Jesus wanted to teach to his disciples that God’s mercy is beyond race, culture or even religious tradition. By going to that region, Jesus made a statement. By healing the daughter of that woman, Jesus broke down the cultural and religious barriers that prevent people from reaching out. Jesus tore down the walls of indifference and lack of compassion.
This is what the Lord is inviting us to reflect today. Just like his disciples, we are called to expand our perspective and understanding of God’s mercy. God is no doubt not limited to few people or selected and favored people. Our God is God of everyone regardless of belief, culture, background or history. God’s grace and mercy is without borders.
Now, you and me who believed in Jesus as Lord and savior are called to be like him. We are, therefore, called to widen our circle of friends, to include those even outside our family, relatives and old friends. We are called to reach out to others, to be more welcoming and accommodating of people in need even if we are different, even if we come from different regions, or religion, or race or dialect, or status and position in life.
This calls us too to be true to our Catholic identity, and that is to be universal and inclusive in the way we deal and relate with people, showing kindness and mercy.
Yes, we are called to build bridges rather than walls, to extend our hands rather than closing our doors, to open our eyes rather than pretending not to see.
Thus, as we would all go home (or go back to your office and workplace, or school), I would like to ask you to recognize those people who need a welcoming presence and accommodating heart. Extend our generosity to them so that we may able to bring the Lord closer to them. Hinaut pa.
Jom Baring, CSsR