20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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This week’s Gospel Reading finds Jesus in an area outside of Jewish territory. A Canaanite woman, a Gentile, and foreigner cries out to Jesus to help her child. His usual response is to acknowledge the person and grant their request. In this instance he ignores her cries and continues on. She perseveres, crying after him. The apostles, annoyed with the commotion she makes, ask Jesus to get rid of her; in other words, grant her request so that she will leave them alone. Jesus responds that he was sent for the House of Israel. Desperately, the woman then falls to her knees and begs Jesus to help her. Even when he refers to her as an unworthy dog, she does not falter. She pleads all the louder “even the dogs eat crumbs from the Master’s table.” Finally, her faith and her persistence are rewarded and Jesus grants her request.

How often do we pray for help or for a specific thing in our lives? If an immediate response is not evident we give up or feel that God has ignored us. Our faith is not strong enough. In this passage the persistence of the Canaanite woman is what changes Jesus. The requests of his disciples seem to fall on deaf ears. Think how we react when someone makes a request for another. We can easily ignore the issue and continue on with what we are doing. If the person asks directly, it is much more difficult to ignore and if they persist, we become more willing to grant their request. Our heroine comes not of the chosen people yet believes that this Jesus can heal her child. The request of the apostles has no effect, yet the pleading of this woman proves her faith and Jesus responds. If Jesus grants the requests of a non-believer, how much more will we receive if our faith is strong and we patiently await God’s answer to our earnest prayers.

Kathy Cusick