Reflections 20th August 2017

A Reflection for the Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mt: 15:21-28 ( )  

Those who have never experienced being part of a minority or being an outsider, as opposed to being an insider, may well have difficulty getting an insight to this gospel text.

A ‘Canaanite woman’, an outsider in so many ways, approached Jesus to seek his intervention in her personal trauma. The apparent arrogance of Jesus and the apparent grovelling of the woman make us feel uneasy. This unease is the heart of the message!

The narrator of the story brings us to a point of making us feel the awkwardness of the clash of the woman and Jesus, of culture, religion and social status. This juxtaposition of seemingly opposed viewpoints is like many of our contemporary dilemmas in Church and society. We can well appreciate the desire of the disciples to avoid the embarrassment of dealing with the difficult situation and asking Jesus to “send her away!”

Jesus, even though culturally and religiously restricted, manages to cross boundaries and even validate the experience of the other: ‘Oh woman, great is your faith!’

This seeming arrogance of Jesus is meant to shock us so that we may perceive fully the outreach to, and acceptance of, the outsider. And this is what is called for in the disciple!

What a wonderful lesson for our time! People who are different culturally or religiously, in gender, in age or in influence need not be enemies or even strangers, but can be fellow travellers on life’s journey.

When people speak of the Church as ‘a club’, where you either accept the rules or go elsewhere, or even as ‘family’ which seems very inclusive but can often be oppressive to some inside and closed to those outside, they do not capture the expanse and quality of relationships Jesus was modelling for his followers. It is beautifully echoed in the first reading from Isaiah:  

Observe what is right, do what is just …

For the foreigners will be acceptable on my holy mountain….

and my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Brendan Carr C.S.Sp.Fr. Brendan missioned for many years in Angola and subsequently ministered in a Dublin parish as well as in a Safeguarding role for the Irish Spiritan Province. He is currently a member of the leadership team of the Province.