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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle A

Matthew 15:21-29

"O Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." (Matthew 15:28)

At first glance, this week’s gospel reading may be difficult to read and understand. Jesus’ attitude toward the Canaanite woman seems quite unusual compared to His typical demeanor. As the woman begs for the healing of her beloved daughter, Jesus does not answer to her. Even the disciples ask to send her away. When she begs again He says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." What are we as Christians to take away from this reading?

At first, it seems Jesus would prefer to send the woman away rather than listening to her requests. Jesus tells the woman His mission, which seems quite limited. “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel," Jesus says. Is He only concerned with caring for specific lost sheep? How lowly must this woman feel?

Instead of giving up hope, the woman kneels before Him and presses on again and again. She does not walk away from Jesus because He does not answer her right away. As Jesus probes the woman, the woman responds steadfast in her faith every time. In turn, Jesus acclaims and applauds her tenacity as an indication of true faith. In fact, Jesus says, “great is your faith.” It is great enough for her prayer to be heard and the healing of her daughter to be complete and immediate.

This passage reminds me of my own prayer life. There are times when I call upon God, but he does not seem to answer. The example of the Canaanite woman shows me that I cannot give up after one try. Instead, God wants me to continue asking for His mercy. Calling upon God again and again will strengthen my faith when times get tough. In times when Jesus is silent to us, we must kneel before Him and remain persistent. There may be moments where the Lord does not answer our prayers in the way we anticipated. If we remain in Him and do not turn away, we will be present for the moment when He graciously acts, forgives, heals, and transforms us.

By Elyse Paul


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