In our Scriptures today, we are reminded that God wants to save all of mankind. In the message from the prophet Isaiah, we hear him tell the Jewish people that ‘foreigners who have attached themselves to the Lord, to love his name and be his servants, …..will be brought to God’s holy mountain’. St Paul in his letter to the Romans gives further emphasis to this message, by saying that he has been sent to spread the Good News to the pagans; those outside of the Jewish faith; his hope was that when the Jewish people saw these new converts to God, they would be ‘envious’ and accept Christ’s message too.
In the Gospel we hear Jesus in an encounter with a Canaanite woman, Jesus insults her ethnicity by comparing her to a dog. The woman is so desperate for her daughter to be cured that she is unphased by the insult and instead of sniping back at Jesus, she uses the insult to demonstrate her faith and confidence in Jesus.
Last week we were encouraged to step out of the boat and walk towards Jesus, this week we hear of this woman, who was not called forward by Jesus, but who sought him out. In our lives, we sometimes encounter people who are seeking Jesus. Think of the friends and relatives we know who seek us out asking for prayers. How do we respond? How can we help bring these people to the Lord? By all means we must pray, but we also need to keep in touch with them and ask about any progress, reminding them we are still praying. These are the scraps mentioned in the Gospel; which may not mean much to us; but can make an incredible difference to those who have asked for prayer.
Every single person that approaches us, is not approaching us as individuals, they are approaching the Body of Christ, we just happen to be the part of His Body, who they have approached. What sort of welcome do they receive? As Christians we are called to welcome the stranger, the poor, the widow, the orphan, the unemployed, the migrant, the refugee, the drug addict, the alcoholic, the abused, the prisoner. We are not to judge them, that is not why we are here. Our vocation as Christians is to welcome them and to love them. By loving those in need we deepen our faith, because we are not just representing the Body of Christ, but we are the Body of Christ.
Any of us who have ever had to ask for help knows how difficult it can be to get over our own pride and actually admit that we need someone else to help us. Think how much that Canaanite woman was prepared to do to get the help for her daughter. She approached a Jewish teacher, not knowing how she would be received. She was prepared to make a scene and risked being judged and shunned by her own people.
The next time anyone asks us for help, please remember that woman. Remember how much she risked and remember how her faith was rewarded. The humility of this woman, prepared to be called a dog and risk ridicule in order to save the daughter she loved.
In our world today there are extraordinary examples of faith happening on a daily basis. This week we heard about the attacks on churches in Pakistan by extremists. Our Christian brothers and sisters are struggling in other parts of the world too; we need to remember them in prayer and ask our government to speak out against these atrocities. As Christians we never know how we would react if our faith is put to that sort of test. We pray not to be tested but also if we are ever tested to give us the courage to withstand any test that comes our way.
This week I would like to encourage us all to be more aware of when someone needs our help. Do we wait to be asked or do we offer help? Are we prepared to risk rejection when we offer help? Are we prepared to risk rejection when we need help? The Canaanite woman risked much when she asked for help, the Christians in Pakistan risk their lives daily when they declare they are Christians, what are we prepared to risk for our faith?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
CCC 543-544: Kingdom first to Israel, now for all who believe
CCC 674: Christ’s coming hope of Israel; their final acceptance of Messiah
CCC 2610: power of invocation with sincere faith
CCC 831, 849: the catholicity of the Church
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Those who are sick, those recovering from surgery, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- All those struggling to feed their families at this time.
- Those working to help others who are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis.
- Those discerning a vocation.