Mission Society of the Philippines

Homilies

20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME: THE WOMAN WHO IS FULL OF TRUST

Mt 15: 21-28

TODAY WE HEAR hear another gospel passage which talks about faith.  In last Sunday’s gospel, we heard Jesus who reprimanded Peter for the latter’s “lack of faith.” He was an apostle and thus, a believer of Jesus, yet, he exhibited a lack of faith. In contrast, a Gentile woman is being featured in today’s gospel. Ironically, she was not a Jew, yet she had a strong faith in Jesus. While Peter was reprimanded by Jesus, this woman, because of her strong faith, was praised by Jesus.
 
Firstly, let us reflect on the faith of this Canaanite woman. Her faith is praiseworthy because it is a fine example of the so-called mountain-moving faith. Clearly, she was helpless. She was such because she is a woman. In fact, the apostles find her an eyesore, so, they want to pull her away from Jesus. Likewise, she is helpless because she was Canaanite. Being a Gentile, the Jews should have no business with her. 
 
But against all odds, she was able to come to Jesus. She broke all the barriers which prevent her to come to Jesus. Her faith can be described as a 'trusting' faith. As a Gentile, she may not have enough knowledge about Jesus. She may have only heard about the deeds of Jesus. But she put much trust in Him. This is the beauty of people who have mature and strong faith. Everything is possible for them who have such faith. In her powerlessness, her faith becomes her power. 
 
Secondly, let us reflect on the “dialogue” that occurred between Jesus and the woman. When the Canaanite woman asked for help, Jesus first told the woman that He was only sent for the “lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she was persistent. Then Jesus told her that “it is not right to take the food… and throw it to the dogs.” Because of her strong faith, she responded to Jesus by saying that “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” And Jesus remarked, “O woman, great is your faith!”
 
If we try to interpret this passage in the context of mission, we would say that there occurred a movement from being “exclusive” to “inclusive.” At first blush, we would say that Jesus could have been narrow in his view of mission because He was only to attend to the needs of the "house of Israel", specifically, its lost tribes. Beyond the borders, He has no more business. But with the kind of faith that the woman has demonstrated, it seemed that the world-view of Jesus drastically changed. He might have realized the universality of his mission. He may have realized that the Gentiles have a share in the “scraps” or blessings of salvation. We may say that it could have been the beginning of His reaching out to those who do not belong to the "Chosen People". His mission then became universal. That would have given usa preview of the so-called "catholicity" or universality of the Church.
 
There is something we can learn from this. In our work and in our service, we cannot afford to remain narrow-minded or too “parochial.” Although our main concern is to think and attend to the needs of our own parish or our own community, that should not be a reason to prevent us to serve people beyond our borders. Our aim is always to make ourselves missionaries wherever we are needed. In truth, those who can reach out to people beyond their confines are better missionaries or ministers than those who only serve their own. Amen.

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