Homily (Reflection) for the Twentieth Sunday of the Year (A) (20th August, 2017) on the Gospel
Is 56:1.6-7;Ps 66:2-3.5-6.8. (R.v. 4);
A man asked for financial assistance from one of his neighbours. In the process, he gave his neighbour the impression that he had no other means of getting the assistance. After listening to him attentively he told him to wait for him and went into his room. He wanted to give him a cheque but unfortunately discovered that he misplaced his chequebook. At first he thought he could find it easily. When it was not so, he went out to explain to the man what he was facing but behold the man was not there.
Thinking that the man had gone out may be to walk around he went out to look for him. Not far from his house he heard someone talking and he listened carefully. Behold it was the same man telling someone else the same story and also telling the person that he had no other means of getting the help.
Topic: This Canaanite woman.
Reading through today’s gospel with The Holy Bible: The New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, I found it difficult to reconcile verses 23 and 24. In The Holy Bible among other translations verse 23 reads that the apostles said to Jesus, “… Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us”. And Jesus replied in verse 23, “… I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. As one can see, this reply does not match the request. To unravel this, I read other translations and found in The New Jerusalem Bible what I judged a better translation. It reads: “… Give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us” (Matt 15:23). It also noted that the correct translation of the Greek verb is “let her go with her request granted”. So I will be working mainly with The New Jerusalem Bible.
Today’s gospel reads, “… suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he said not a word in answer to her” (Matt 15:22-23). Imagine the scenario. Remember the saying also that the best answer to a fool is silence. And as if that was not enough, when the woman came and bowed low before Jesus and pleaded “Lord … help me” she got this: “… It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs” (Matt 15:26). Jesus’ reply was in line with the Jewish mentality that the gentiles are equal to dogs (The New Jerusalem Bible). Not even this could scare her from going for what she was looking for. Hence, she retorted: “… Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table” (Matt 15:27).
As I reflect I kept wondering ‘What could be in this Canaanite woman that made her stood so adamant that nothing could distract her getting what she wanted – cultural barrier, silence, unfavourable reply among others? In the prophet Isaiah we read, “but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Is 40:31).
Just like this Canaanite woman, everyone has needs. But the difference seems to be in the individuals. The Letter of Saint James reads, “… It is because you do not pray that you do not receive; when you pray and do not receive, it is because you prayed wrongly, wanting to indulge your passions” (Jas 4:2-3). In the gospel according to Saint Luke, Jesus assures us, “If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be rooted up, and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you” (Lk 17:6).
It must be the faith of the Canaanite woman that made her to wait because she was certain that it must come, cf. Hab 2:3. In her faith, she seemed to have said with the prophet: “But as for me, I will look to the LORD, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me” (Mic 7:7). Relying on the fact that “The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him” (Lam 3:25) and that those who wait for the Lord shall not be put to shame, (cf. Is 49:23), we ought to follow the example of this woman unlike the man we saw in the introductory part of this homily. It is important to note that neither the prayers of this woman nor those of the disciples obtained for her what she wanted but only her faith. Hence Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted” (Matt 15:28). So as you pray for your needs and ask others to pray for you too, do not fail to have faith.
Bible Reading: Lam 3:1ff; Jas 2:14-26; 4:1-12; Lk 18:1-8; 2Pt 1:3-11.
Thought for today: Do you seek for what you need with your faith?
Let us pray: Lord, grant us faith as great as that of the Canaanite woman because it is only through faith that we can please you – Amen (cf. Heb 11:6).
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