The Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 20, 2017
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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“Great is your faith” (Mt 15:28).

In today’s Gospel, we find a woman who had a problem: her daughter was being tormented by a demon and in great affliction. We can all imagine what suffering a mother could feel for a child in this situation. Jesus was the only one who could solve her problem.

She met Jesus and asked him for pity. What did she receive? Silence, only silence: “Jesus did not say a word in answer to her” (Mt 15:23). However, she did not give up. She continued asking, in a way that was bothering the disciples. They asked Jesus to help her because they could not listen to her anymore: “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us” (Mt 15:23). Jesus says that he was not sent for her. He was only sent for the house of Israel.

However, she keeps saying: “Lord, help me” (Mt 15:25). At this moment, Jesus speaks directly to her. He says something very harsh. He says that the bread is for children and not for dogs.

This woman encountered silence, rejection and was almost insulted by Jesus. Why was Jesus so harsh with this Canaanite woman? What was the reason for such great hardness with someone who was in pain?

I think if it were I, I would have given up. If I find someone who does not listen to me, rejects and insults me, I will say “good bye.”

The Canaanite woman has immense perseverance. She does not give up: “Have pity on me … Lord, help me” (Mt 15:22).

Why did Jesus act this way? We only understand at the end, when Christ says: “O woman, great is your faith!” (Mt 15:28). Everything that Jesus had done was to increase her faith. Jesus wants a total commitment. He does not want to be a magician who solves problems automatically. He wants our commitment to him. He wants us to establish a relationship with him.

In our lives, we can experience Jesus’ silence and apparent rejection. When bad things happen to us, it is easy to think that we are not loved by God, that we are rejected by him. It is a great temptation that anybody could have, to think that God is against us. Sometimes I listen to people saying: “God does not hear me. When I pray there is only silence and nothing happens.”

We need the same attitude of heart that the woman had. We need the same wisdom that she had. We need to imitate her perseverance. We need to follow her example of faith, her total trust in God. Above all, we need to have the same commitment that she had to Jesus. We need to learn that difficulties in life could be a means the Lord uses to make us grow.

It is not easy. It is impossible to do this alone. We need the gift of the Holy Spirit, as we need people around us who can help us understand the Lord’s pedagogy.

“Great is your faith.”

Today we ask Our Lord to increase our little faith, for the Holy Spirit to enhance our faith.  Amen.

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