A Cycle – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time 20
Last week we heard Jesus chastising the disciples for their lack of faith. This week we hear Jesus praise a gentile woman for her great faith. Different circumstances and yet it should make you wonder about our own faith and when do we exercise our faith.
Last week we had a story about believers, the disciples chosen by Jesus and yet during a frightening storm they lacked faith. This week we have someone the disciples considered unworthy of God’s grace, someone considered unclean, approaching Jesus, and yes challenging him to obtain God’s grace.
What is going on and how can we learn something about faith from these two very different stories. Let us be clear Jesus does ignore this Canaanite woman as she pleads for help. His ignoring her does not indicate any prejudice against the gentiles by Jesus, in fact, he clearly states he is just beginning his ministry to the chosen people, the sons and daughters. Yet this woman is not to be denied as she cries out “Lord, Son of David” have pity on me.
This woman who because she is a gentile, had no interaction with the Jews, who was never taught the prophesies, who never read the Torah, who would never be allowed in a temple to worship the One True God, identifies Jesus by the lineage from which the Messiah would come. She embraced who he was and believed who he was without being taught and without being accepted by the people God set apart as his own.
There is a great lesson in this story for us to reflect on and ask God to instill within us. That lesson is we need to have an absolute trust and belief in Jesus and what he did for us.
In fact, if we examine our faith, we can easily see we are as righteous as the disciples were in this story. They have forgotten already how their faith faltered because the failed to trust Jesus when they were powerless against the storm. This Canaanite woman’s faith was undaunted even as Jesus seems to dismiss her as he says, His mission is to” the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Jesus is just beginning his mission and first on his list is the salvation of the Chosen People of God, not the gentiles. That mission was to come later but we see it now unfolding with this first encounter with this gentile woman. This reminds me of another time when Jesus responded to a need before it was his time to do so. Son, they have no wine. What concern of mine is that for my time has not come.
Well this Canaanite woman persists even as Jesus ignores her pleas. She does not care if his mission is to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, she cries out “help me Lord.” Now we come to the heart of this story as Jesus says, “it is not right to take the food of sons and daughters and throw it to dogs.” How would we respond if we heard Jesus tell us that? This is obviously a put down, a rebuke of her as she attempts to get help for her daughter.
She should have gone away after that rebuke. Instead of leaving she responds boldly, and her words indicate a deep belief in God’s mercy, forgiveness’, and restoration – “Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters table.” She believes in Jesus and she understands grace.
What is it we believe? Our creed sums up our believe and we profess it each Sunday. Do we believe what we are professing enough to know God will respond if we are unwavering in our believe in God’s promises. Listen to us profess as we say we believe in “God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth and in all things visible and invisible. I believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary and became man.
Here is the question this gospel asks of us. Do we believe that God exists and is the creator? Do we believe that Jesus was incarnate and that he became man? Do we believe that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus? I know this is our mindset when we recite the creed but do, we live that during daily life? I believe what the story of the Canaanite woman is revealing to us an attitude that is revealing a belief “in” Jesus which allows us to appropriate the grace of faith for ourselves. There is a great divide between believing in and believing that Jesus died for our sins. Believing in Jesus is faith, believing that Jesus died is religion.
We like her need to profess Jesus is the Son of God and he is the messiah. A faith that believes is a faith that trusts in the promises of God.
The Canaanite woman’s faith compelled her to believe all she seeks is found in Jesus. She could not be put off by his silence or the rebuke of his disciples. Her faith is praised by Jesus because she does not allow the obstacles to block her from the grace only Jesus can provide. This is exactly the opposite of the reaction of the disciples during the storm. They allowed the obstacles to overwhelm than and kept them from tapping into the power of the one who promises he will never abandon us.
Notice how she is humble, not demanding but humbly she knows even if Jesus gives her the scraps that are left over after he ministers to the house of Israel it will be sufficient for her. Notice how faith in God moves the heart of God when he seemed determined to ignore her.
Faith in God and faith in Jesus can open the treasure house of heaven for each of us. The truth is given to us from the mouth of God when he said, if we believe we will do the things he did and greater than the things he did. Faith comes in one size when we believe.