Matthew 15: 21-28 Great is your faith!

Today’s Gospel was Matthew 15: 21-28. After I read it last night I realized I had absolutely no idea what this Gospel passage was about. It was confusing. I didn’t follow it. I didn’t get the message. I then realized “Here is a good candidate for some Lectio Divina-ish reflection.” So I re-read the passage and started to get some thoughts about what it might be saying. I read it again and felt a little more understanding, but then more confusion. My main take aways: (1) Persistence, (2) Recognition that even receiving a small amount of God’s grace and mercy is worth so much and contains so much power, (3) Didn’t Jesus come for/to save all nations?

I eagerly awaited mass today because the priest would be Fr. Jeremy Mohler and he likes to break down the readings and so I was curious to learn more. In his homily he did just that and touched on how Jesus was sent to the Israelites first and foremost, but after his resurrection there was the great commissioning and he sent his apostles out to all nations.  He mentioned St. Jerome’s insights into this passage – about how the Canaanite woman had great faith and she is a great example of “faith, perseverance, humility”.

The homily answered those questions I had and gave me more knowledge. I particularly liked learning that the Jewish people considered Gentiles as dogs and that the word the woman uses for “dog” is different than the one Jesus used for “dog”. The woman’s “dog” meant a very small, lowly dog. And Fr. Jeremy pointed out that is most Gospel passages it is Jesus who makes the most impactful/profound statements – but in this Gospel the strongest statement comes from the woman.

Here is the Gospel MT 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 Jesus did not say a word in answer to her.
Jesus’ 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 Jesus 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 the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

 

Now for a few more thoughts about this passage that I had while reading…

It was perplexing to see Jesus ignore this woman who was calling out to him. It was perplexing to see that the disciples’ response to the woman was also to want to send her away — they didn’t go to Jesus and say “Hey Jesus – this woman over here seems to need you.” Instead they said “Send her away”! She was seeking help and healing from the person she knew could provide the help and healing and she was dismissed instead of addressed!

Jesus doesn’t rebuke his disciples but seems to agree with them that he came for specific lost sheep, and she was not one of them :: I know I know this passage, but still I felt so stunned and confused by Jesus’ words. Wasn’t he sent to all nations??

Despite this the woman comes closer and still pays respect to Jesus. She requests help. :: This woman truly believes, and believes to the point of knowing, that Jesus is who he says he is.  She ignores the dismissal by the disciples and goes straight to Jesus – to the source of healing for her daughter.

Despite Jesus’ rebuttal to her request the woman makes a pray and a plea. But she doesn’t ask to eat at the table, she asks for scraps. :: The woman has the faith and understanding that Jesus is so great and powerful and merciful that even a “scrap” amount contains enough power to answer her prayer. She doesn’t make claims to have the faith or the right to eat at the table — perhaps she sees just how inadequate we all are to merit a seat at the table — and so she knows that if Jesus were to grant her even the smallest morsel of mercy it will be enough.

(This passage really can be summed up as “faith, perseverance, humility”!)

I had been confused why Jesus’ second response was “Oh woman, great is your faith!” I didn’t initially see how this woman reflected great faith. She seemed “pushy”, and I know she was seeking Jesus and help for her daughter — but I just couldn’t see that it isn’t possible to be “pushy” when it is “perseverance in what is right and true” — and who or what is more right and true than Jesus, Son of David!

Time spent in contemplation has opened this passage up to me. I better understand it now. It contains an incredible lesson for all of us – to have faith, to persevere in prayer and to persevere in seeking God despite any obstacles we face because we know and understand that God is Truth and God is Love, and to always have the humility to know that while we long for Him and for His intercession we are not worthy of Him. (And I plead: Can’t you see that this shows us just how great God is! Because God shares with us and welcomes us to His table despite our iniquities — He calls us His sons and daughters and He wants us to come to Him and receive Him. In our humanness we are only worthy to get the scraps but He offers us the whole meal!)

 

8/22/17: In listening to WAOB they aired the Gospel and Pope Francis’ homily. While it was on I had some additional thoughts:

  1. The Canaanite woman is a pagan – yet she can see the Truth of who Jesus is. There were Jews who couldn’t see the Truth yet somehow an outsider could see more clearly than someone who should have been so close and ready to see the Truth.

  2. I know this passage often gets billed as “test” and persistence in the face of what appears to be God ignoring our prayers. But in listening again it also feels as though Jesus wants us to engage — it is only after Jesus and the woman talk that Jesus performs the miracle. He may say or show us one thing but if we engage with him and have a dialogue. >> Jesus wants us to seek Him. He wants a relationship with us. We just have to persist until we reach that point of conversation. And when we do converse we shouldn’t be shy – we should be bold in our reply! Jesus wants an honest dialogue with us – and this woman reflects honesty, faith, trust.

Wow this is incredible: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2017/08/18/xx_sunday_-_august_20,_2017/1331494

 

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