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Thursday, 17 August 2023 09:42

A Kingdom for all

Jesus left Gennesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word.

His disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said, ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’ But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord’, she said, ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’ She retorted, ‘Ah, yes, Sir; but even house-dogs can eat up the scraps that fall from their master’s table.’ Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again. (Matthew 15:21-28)

Reflection - A Kingdom for all

Today’s Gospel marks a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. He sees himself as sent ‘only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’. That is, to those who were deemed sinners because they could not keep the Law of Moses, and were considered beyond the care and concern of God by religious authorities.

The story centres around a confrontation between Jesus and a pagan (Canaanite) woman.

Firstly, Jesus ignores her altogether. Then, because the woman is making such a racket, the disciples ask him to give her what she wants. Jesus refuses. The woman approaches him directly and asks for help. He refuses again, quoting an ancient popular racial slur against the Canaanites. His words are harsh and demeaning, but the woman persists, defeating Jesus with her quick thinking and twisting his own imagery in her favour. He recognizes her faith and grants her wish.

St Matthew uses this story about Jesus and the woman to answer the question about who belongs in the Kingdom of God – who are the insiders and who are the outsiders?

In terms of the story, not only Israelites, but all who come with faith, are part of the Kingdom. The first reading from the Prophet Isaiah makes the same point: God’s house is a house for all the peoples.

Matthew’s early Christian community is struggling with accepting some non-Jews wanting to join them. Just as Jesus (the ultimate insider) moves past his own prejudices, so the members of the Kingdom and the Church must move past theirs’ so that God’s house of prayer will be a place of justice and integrity for all the peoples; a house from which God’s salvation and healing flows.

You can download and print our prayers and reflections for this Sunday.

pdf Celebrating At Home 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [PDF] (2.92 MB)                            
undefined Celebrating At Home 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time [ePub] (2.17 MB)


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