20th Sunday of
Many years ago in Illinois, a young man with six months of schooling to his credit ran for an office in the legislature. But he was beaten. Next he entered business and failed in that too and spent the next seventeen years paying the debt of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady, they became engaged but she died shortly. He had a nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. Then he tried to obtain an appointment to the US land office but didn’t succeed. Then he became a candidate for the US Vice presidency and was lost. Two years later, he was defeated in a race for the Senate. Then he ran for President and was finally elected. This man was Abraham Lincoln . During the Second World War Winston Churchill gave the commencement address at the Oxfords University and the famous speech consisted of only three words: “Never Give up”
The main ideas conveyed by the readings of today’s Holy Mass consist of
1. Universal nature of God’s salvation project in Christ, and
2. Need for trustful persistence in our prayers to receive God’s tees prayer .
In the first reading from the Book of Isaiah we see Yahweh inviting both faithful Jews as well as the unfaithful and foreigners to come to “my mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.”
In the second reading from the letter of St.Paul to Romans the author explains God’s plan to include Gentiles in Christ’s project of salvation.
In the Gospel passage from Matthew we see Our Lord healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman. Through this miracle our Lord demonstrates his mission to break down the barriers between the Gentiles and the Jews.
The Lord Jesus appears to be ignoring the persistent cry of this poor woman. He even ignores the request and intervention of the disciples who came to intercede for her.
Finally, he even makes certain indirect and harsh refusal statements he : “I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel”.
The Lord becomes harsher as he said, “It’s not fair to take children’s food and throw to the “dogs”. The term “dog” was a derogatory Jewish word for gentles. Just like dogs (outside dogs), Gentiles were treated by Jews as unclean because they would eat anything including pork. According to Biblical scholars Jesus used the word ‘kunarios’ meaning household pets rather than the ordinary Greek word for dogs ‘Kuon’ This woman was smart enough to recognize this difference and she responds to the Lord in a very intelligent and appealing manner. “Yes, Lord, yet dogs even eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table “ and she was expressing her total and unconditional trust in the Lord. In a way she was teaching the Lord in a witty way: “pets (dogs) are not outsiders but insiders; they not only belong to the family but they are part of the family “
Our Lord refused her request 3 times but now he praises her faith and grants her request. Besides our Lord praises her as he said, ”Woman, great is your faith“.
The greatness of the Canaanite woman’s faith consisted in:
A. Her willingness to cross the barrier of racism,
B. Her refusal to be ignored or put off because of her position in life , and
C. Her humility in admitting that she did not deserve Master’s attention and time.
We need to persist in our prayer life with trustful confidence. Further we need to pull down our walls of separation and share in the universality of God’s love in Christ.