20th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7 | Romans 11:13-15 29-32 | Matthew 15: 21-28
“O woman, great is your faith!”
Recall one of Pope Francis’ talks at World Youth Day in Portugal a few weeks ago, where he said, “there is space for everyone, and when there isn’t, please, let’s work so that there is—also for who makes mistakes, for who falls, for who it is difficult.”
He then asked all the young people to “repeat with me: Everyone, everyone, everyone!” as waves of “todos, todos, todos”—”everyone” spread throughout the crowd. “That is the church,” he said, “the mother of all; there is room for all.”
Now consider the woman in today’s gospel. She is unnamed, a non-Jewish woman, from Canaan, an ancient enemy of the Jews. In the eyes of many, she was not important; she was an outsider. Initially Jesus ignored her and the disciples rebuffed her. She could have surrendered and gone away, but she has a sick daughter who needs healing, and she is convinced that Jesus can help her. She has great faith.
Often in scripture there is the tension concerning who belongs and who does not. This woman clearly was perceived as one who does not belong. However, she couldn’t care less about politics and division in her world. She only cared about her daughter. She shows what prayer and love and faith look like when faced with personal adversity. This woman wouldn’t take no for an answer.
Her persistent and undefeated faith triumphs over national boundaries and compels her to argue with Jesus. In doing so she calls him to a new attitude, and most amazingly, he relents and agrees to heal her daughter. She is living out of the belief of Pope Francis that all are welcome in this church of ours; there is room for all of us.
As we reflect on this courageous woman this week, let us recognize those excluded in our circles, in our neighborhood, our families, our church. Ask yourself who you need to include so you may witness to the truth that there is room for all.
Mary Ann Collins, OP