O WOMAN, YOUR FAITH IS GREAT
To a people that has almost as a whole deserted God, Jeremiah gives the assurance that God will never be unfaithful to them. There will be a remnant that responds to God’s love. The clue to this is as simple and tremendous as this: God loves his people, the one from the past and that of the present. And so he loves us also. He loves us with a love that does not wear out. His affection remains constant.
There are some obvious problems with the story of the Canaanite woman. The words of Jesus sound harsh and discriminating against non-Jews. Some exegetes see in it an exchange of wits between the woman and Jesus, reflecting the prejudices of their time and yet fundamentally revealing that salvation is for all without discrimination and prejudice wherever faith is found. The way this story is told reflects the problem of the primitive Church whether to accept non-Jewish converts. Everyone who believes may eat from the Lord’s table and is fed more than crumbs.
Father of all,
long ago you chose the people of Israel
to make your name known to all the nations.
Your Son Jesus Christ made it clear
that forgiveness and the fullness of life are the share
of all who believe in him.
Make your Church truly a place of encounter
for all those who grope for you,
that all obstacles and barriers may be removed
and that the riches of all nations and cultures
may reveal the thousand faces
of the love you have shown us
in Jesus Christ our Lord.
1 Reading Jeremiah 31:1-7
At that time, says the LORD, I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the LORD: The people that escaped the sword have found favour in the desert. As Israel comes forward to be given his rest, the LORD appears to him from afar: With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel; Carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits. Yes, a day will come when the watchmen will call out on Mount Ephraim: “Rise up, let us go to Zion, to the LORD, our God.” For thus says the LORD: Shout with joy for Jacob, exult at the head of the nations; proclaim your praise and say: The LORD has delivered his people, the remnant of Israel.
Responsorial Psalm: JEREMIAH 31:10, 11-12AB, 13
R. (cf. 10d) The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock.
Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel, now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd his flock. R.
The LORD shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the LORD’s blessings. R.
Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
I will turn their mourning into joy.
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows. R.
Alleluia Luke 7:16
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
A great prophet has arisen in our midst
and God has visited his people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel Matthew 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.
Jeremiah excels in poetic imagery, especially in those sections that speak of Israel’s restoration. The country would one day stand out among the nations as the favored of God, a love that was there from the beginning. The faithful remnant of a faithless people would ultimately triumph.
In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus has come primarily for the people of Israel. But even in that Gospel the non-Jew is not forgotten. The account of the Canaanite woman is a case in point. One stands in amazement at her determination. She had undoubtedly heard of Jesus and had decided to approach him at all costs. She enters the land of the Jews, a foreign woman in an alien culture. She was not only a woman; she was a nonbeliever in a world that did not look with favor on Gentile people. In the interests of her daughter, she is not about to be dissuaded. When Jesus first refuses her request in proverbial form, she responds to him in a similar fashion.
The Canaanite woman was a person of uncommon faith. The narrative is very clear on that point. And it is that faith that brings Jesus to accede to her request. Much of the Western world today champions reason over faith. Governments consider faith obsolete. Religious practice, prayer, and observance are dismissed as medieval holdovers. Those who do believe must not waver in their conviction. Every time that faith has been challenged in history, it returns with greater vigor. Sweet to hear Jesus say to us: O, your faith is great.
– That there may be room in the universal Church for the cultural riches of various peoples and for manifesting one and the same faith in a variety of languages and forms of expression, we pray:
– That we may have open hearts and homes for people who are hard to accommodate: strangers and refugees, the jobless and the poor, victims of discrimination and oppression; that we may do all we can to integrate them into the human and Christians community, we pray:
That all of us here may be concerned about those who are not here because they are estranged from the Church, that our lives may reveal Christ to them, we pray:
Prayer over the Gifts
Lord God, Father of all,
you set the table of your Son
for all who are willing to come:
for saints and for sinners,
for the poor and the rich.
Give us your Son Jesus Christ.
May we learn from him
to give to all those who ask for food or love
not meager crumbs or leftovers
but the food of ourselves,
as Jesus does here for us,
he who is our Lord for ever.
Prayer after Communion
God our Father,
in this Eucharist we have all been one
in Jesus Christ your Son.
He died and rose to life for all;
his likeness is reflected
in the face of every human being:
let it become visible in all.
Let his face not be marred or divided
by our prejudices and fears.
Do not allow our love to be less than universal,
and unite us more in him
who is our common way to you and to one another,
Jesus Christ our Lord.
Music from one instrument can be beautiful, but the most beautiful form is found in the harmony of many different instruments together in one symphony, or many human voices blending in one chorus. May God give us the symphony and chorus of many cultures and peoples together, with the blessing of almighty God, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen!