August 8th

GospelMT 15: 21-28

At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David!
My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But he did not say a word in answer to her.
His disciples came and asked him,
“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”
He said in reply,
“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”
He said in reply,
“It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
“O woman, great is your faith!
Let it be done for you as you wish.”
And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Bishop Robert Barron

Friends, a long tradition stresses the perseverance of the Canaanite woman we meet in today’s Gospel. Augustine says that we pray in order to expand our will to accept what God is going to give us. Another reading shows how the woman exemplifies the proper attitude toward God, a combination of humility and boldness, of deference and defiance. We are creatures and God is God; nevertheless, God invites us into intimacy with him.

But I want to emphasize the reading conditioned by the “other.” The Old Testament speaks insistently of the “stranger, the widow, and the orphan.” The ethical life, in a biblical framework, is about the press of these people upon us. They press upon us even when we would greatly prefer them just to go away.

We the Church are the Body of Christ. And so people come to us demanding food, sustenance, friendship, love, shelter, or liberation. Often we are tempted to do what Jesus does initially and what the disciples do: tell them to back off. We are overloaded, busy, and preoccupied. We can’t be bothered.

But the whole of the Christian life consists in remembering the suffering and need of the annoying other.


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