Grace to you!
Many commentaries and books have been written concerning Jesus' conversation with the woman of Canaan, as recorded in Matthew 15:21-28. Some criticize the Lord Jesus, arguing he treated the woman derogatorily. Others see in the conversation a divine-human conversation to reveal the rare gift of faith from a gentile. This latter is my take, and much more.
Reading the story, I see something I have never noticed before. God's word is ever new. I reflected on this story a couple of weeks ago. Here I look at it from another perspective.
Remember that whatever the Old Testament wrote concerning the day of the Lord, the Lord Jesus lived and fulfilled. Typology (the study of different types, symbols, or figures and messages that point from a promise to its fulfillment), as a biblical interpretation tool, helps us see how the Lord Jesus fulfills Divine promises of Old.
Isaiah had prophesied a time when the gentiles, foreigners, and strangers, who weren't welcome in the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem, would find a home in that house. "For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples." (Isaiah 56:7). The gentiles will join "themselves to the Lord, minister to him, love the name of the Lord" (Is 56:6).
Watch the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ through whom and in whom this prophecy is fulfilled. His conversation with the woman of Canaan captures it.
The Canaanite woman calls on the Lord, joining her petitions to the Lord. She cries to Jesus, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David...” (Mt 15:22).
Jesus didn’t answer. Very unusual. The scene begins to unravel the biases of the disciples and the audacity of the woman’s faith.
The disciples of Jesus, who thought salvation was only for the Jews, observing that Jesus didn't answer the woman, were quick to tell Jesus to dismiss her. The Lord seems to show indifference: "I was sent only to Israel's lost sheep" (v. 24). Observe that Jesus addressed the apostles, not the woman.
The woman came and knelt, begging the Lord for her daughter’s healing. She wouldn't accept that the blessing was not for her too.
Then came the more shocking statement, this time addressed to the woman, suggesting that the pet dog shouldn't be given the children's food, to which the woman insisted that the pet dog in the house could feast from the scraps falling off of the dining table of kids.
Of course, then came the text's central lesson: The Lord said to her, "You have great faith. Your request is granted" (Mt 15:28).
The Lord already knew what he wanted to do. He was teaching a great lesson to the disciples who believed faith was only for the Jews, so also the salvation mission of the messiah. Jesus shows through this conversation that there are many outside the so-called realm of salvation who have great faith. Their faith, such as this woman's faith, is much more impressive than those of the disciples.
Not only was the Canaanite from a gentile territory; she was also a woman. Recall that for a typical Jew of the time, these two, were for many, limitations to great faith. However, the Lord reveals through this dialogue how the Canaanite woman's faith is a model of great faith for the disciples.
From time to time, some believers live as if to say God's house, the home of Christ, Christ himself, is for a particular people or race. I recall a time when some philosophers, politicians, and theologians argued back and forth whether those from Africa and the unknown world (then the Americas) could conceptualize the profundity of the Christ-event. As naive as this sounds, it reveals the mental default of some thinkers who want Christ only for their family, not for others.
Today's message reminds us that the gift of faith, through which we gain access to the abundance of Divine Grace of salvation and all it entails, is for all. The Church is our Church, not their Church. Do not allow anyone to make you feel less welcome in your, our Father's house. Faith is the access to that house, the home of salvation. And faith is a gift accessible to all.
I am praying that God will make us disciples of the unifying power of faith. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[20th Sunday Ordinary Time A: Is 56:1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15:21-28]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.