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THE UNEXPECTED FAITH: A reflection for 20th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 15 Aug 2020

Readings: Is 56:1-6,7; Rm 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt15:21-28.

    For a long while, before Jesus came, up to six hundred years, Isaiah passed information that “foreigners who attached themselves to the Lord” will be welcome in God’s presence. The prophet did a proclamation that God’s house is to be called a house of prayer not only for Abraham’s children but for “all the peoples.” Such heart-warming news should make us joyful as we return to God’s presence today.

    The psalm we sing now has a way of making God’s promises come alive in our hearts. The reaffirmation that we chant, “O God, let all the nations praise you,” has a way of reminding us of what God promised through Isaiah. Taking the theme of inclusion further, the second reading welds together, the two contrasting visions of admission and rejection. The rejection that had estranged the Gentiles from God’s house in former times relates in new ways to the “admission” that now welcomes all nations into God’s presence without exception. The tenacity of Paul in bringing out God’s redemptive plan for all humanity is excellent here. It both confirms the promise of God that Isaiah proclaimed and justifies the mission of Paul to the Gentiles. And, at the zenith of all these revelations stands Jesus.

  God never takes back his words, gifts, or promises. Thus, as we hear of the disobedience of faith and the rejection that it brings, we also learn of the grace of reconciliation that God’s mercy makes accessible to everyone who sincerely cares. We recognize that “the region of Tyre and Sidon” carries significant emphasis in this episode because those cities, excluded from the boundaries of Israel, already took the designation of woes (Mt 11:22). Are we not surprised to notice such an exemplary profession of devotion in Jesus by the so-called “pagan” lady of a foreign country? Moreover, consider the humbly and respectful address of Jesus (“Sir, Son of David;” “Lord, please Lord” vv.22, 25) by this woman. Notice that her persistence, unflinching at the face of Jesus’ disgraceful treatment of her remains our greatest challenge.

    Put in another way, today’s Gospel unites all the elements of a “zealous faith” in the persistence of a “Canaanite” woman. At first, Jesus ignores her. The followers of Jesus remark how “she is shouting after us.” She braves the maltreatments and “falls at the feet” of Jesus. Yet Jesus refers her and all of hers to “kunarion,which means “house dog” or “pet dog.  At the end of today’s Gospel story, we should all be able to ask ourselves some truthful questions. The apt reply of a “pagan” woman, that “even the dogs eat the scraps” from the master’s table, is full of insight.  Jesus reveals that all of this is, after all, has been a test of faith.

  Think again of the woman who towers in grace before our imagination. Let us pause and ponder the overwhelming implications of her demeanor and reply to Jesus. Here we have a character able and stable enough to give back to Jesus, the best of what he has always asked from us. Again, a woman wins!  She answers on our behalf that God feeds those we tag as “pagans” as well as ourselves (the only righteous ones!). At this point, the question comes: How far is your endurance? How long, how strong, and how relentless does our faith endurance go?

     Next time, when you, who finds it so “embarrassing” and “abnormal” to do the extra mile for Jesus, boast about your righteousness and unalloyed faith: think harder. You believe that you have attracted the most unheard-of names, or the weirdest adjective because of your faith; remember the lady of today’s  Gospel.





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