Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
IS 56:1, 6-7 PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8 ROM 11:13-15, 29-32 MT 15:21-28
The world from which Jesus emerged was divided into Jew and Gentile, nothing more. If you weren’t Jewish you were different, “other” and inferior. You did not have a covenant with God; you were not one of the “chosen” people.
When the Canaanite woman asked Jesus for help with her ailing daughter, the disciples advised him to send her away. They must have felt justified when Jesus told her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (MT 15:24).
How easy it is to think of ourselves as normal and entitled, and those who are different as odd or less important.
I grew up in a mostly Irish Catholic neighborhood and went to an all-girls Catholic high school. You could say that my young world was divided into Catholic and non-Catholic or white and non-white.
When the Gentile woman continued to plead for his help, Jesus seemed to dig in his heels. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” (MT 15:27). Jesus was speaking in a way that the Jewish people of the time would find normal and correct. The concerns of a non-Jew were of no consequence.
How easy it is to look at the world through our own narrow lenses.
But Jesus wasn’t doing that. He was speaking in a conventional Jewish manner to better shock his followers with his real message.
When the woman counter-argued, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (MT 15:28), Jesus answered, “O woman, great is your faith. Let it be done for you as you wish.”
In his thought-provoking way, Jesus opened eyes and hearts by turning conventional wisdom upside down. He looked at the non-Jewish woman through a wider lens. He demonstrated that God’s love is for everyone.
How wonderful it would be if we all viewed each other through a wide lens.
My world opened up in college where I met and became friends with people of other religions and races. I even married one of “them”. Today my husband and I belong to a mostly Jewish golf club where I am the different one.
Lord, help us to see that no one is the different one. Help us “observe what is right, do what is just” (S 56:1) and know that we are all equal, all loved and all valued.
Imelda Sobiloff, Associate