Reflections on Sunday’s Gospel – August 14, 2011

The gospel for mass tomorrow is a doozie!  I’ve done some research.  Many learned people have different takes on this reading from Matthew.  Once, when disturbed by Jesus’ reaction to the Canaanite woman in this passage, I spoke with a trusted priest, and asked his interpretation.

We must understand a bit about the relationship between the Jews and the Canaanites.  The Canaanites were pagans, and were seen as being much lower on the totem pole than the Jews – by the Jews that is!  The Jews looked down their noses at these people, and the Canaanites looked down upon the Jews.  When the woman first asks Jesus for help, He basically ignores her.  When she humbles herself to ask a second time, Jesus called her a “dog” – the lesser creature that everyone saw her to be.

There are two things going on here.  By giving her a bit of a hard time, Jesus teaches her (and us) to humble herself in supplication.  She does that.  Jesus is also saying out loud what everyone else in that audience was thinking about the Canaanite woman.  By provoking her, He encourages her to humbly state her faith three times before the crowd – a powerful testimony to her belief in Jesus.  Then He tells her that because of her great faith, her daughter would be healed.

Was Jesus trying to teach His followers a lesson, too?  Who was the more faithful person – this pagan Canaanite, or the so-called “religious” followers of Jesus?  Was this also a lesson regarding the sin of pride?  Just think about it.

Gospel for Sunday, August 14, 2011

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.

Mt 15:21-28

About danardoyle

I am a Catholic, working wife and mother. I have three children ages 14, 20 and 27. I am extremely busy, as you can imagine. I aim each and every day to put God first in my life, to teach my children the Faith, to be a supportive spouse, keep the house in order, and do my job outside of the home well, too. That's an impossible task - without Divine intervention! Here, I hope to share my triumphs and struggles with other working moms in the same boat. I will share the tools I have discovered to making it all work - most days!
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3 Responses to Reflections on Sunday’s Gospel – August 14, 2011

  1. pattyabr says:

    I went to church tonight and the priest’s take on the gospel was different. If you follow the Gospel in succession, Jesus was probably “spent” he lost his cousin John the Baptist and he was being asked by many people for many things. Yes he “drew the line” and was cross at giving help to a Gentile woman when his purpose was to redeem the Israelites. We are all “spent” at times in our lives by helping people when there is nothing left to give. The woman asking kindly for Jesus’ help and he helped her by healing her daughter. Sometimes when there is nothing left to give we must realize that God may be on the other side asking for help.

    • danardoyle says:

      Neat! I read another post written by a priest with yet another perspective. He said that we really see Jesus’ human side here. The problem I have with that is that He was fully divine and fully human, but without sin. For Him to be cruel to the woman, as reading the passage at surface value would suggest, He would be sinning. Jesus couldn’t do that. Interesting to hear different perspectives/theories! Thanks!

  2. littlesoul2 says:

    This is definitely a challenging gospel! But like you said, Jesus is fully human and fully Divine and perfect in both of His natures. I cannot imagine Him ever being unjustly cross or impatient with this desperate woman pleading for help with her child. I’ve heard several times that the term “dogs,” was not nearly as offensive as it sounds to us, in the orginal language, and in the culture of the time. I don’t know the answer, but I like to think that He was highlighting the depth of her faith in Him, so much greater than that of his own people. He also made her “persist.” Something else that he taught in several stories — like the poor judge with that woman who wouldn’t give him any rest.

    Another “hard” gospel is the fig tree without fruit which got cursed — even though it wasn’t even the time for figs! I’ve always felt bad for that poor tree : )

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