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Twentieth Sunday

Aug 19, 2020
1st Reading: Isaiah 56:1, 6-7 
Resp. Psalm: Psalm 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
2nd Reading: Romans 11:13-15, 29-32
Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28 

Jesus tests the woman in today's Gospel. She is begging him for help – she asks him to have pity on her daughter. But He says "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." The woman was not an Israelite, she was from Canaan. But she doesn't let what Jesus says stop her – she keeps on and says "Lord, help me". Then Jesus says something surprising It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. Most of us might be so discouraged by this time, but the woman came up with a wonderful answer: Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Then Jesus said O woman, great is your faith! And her daughter was healed.

Why did Jesus talk to her in this way? He was testing her. Jesus can only do miracles if we believe in Him. And when we pray to Him to help us, just as this Canaanite woman did, He tests us too, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Sometimes we are tempted to think that He abandons us and that He doesn't hear us. What must this Canaanite woman have been thinking when Jesus answered her the way He did? Even if she felt discouraged, she still kept on and at the end Jesus praised her! Jesus doesn't test us because He doesn't know how strong our faith us, He tests us for us to know how strong our faith is. The stronger our faith is, we will then be brought to God's holy mountain as we read in the first reading, which is a deeper spiritual communion with Him. The more united we are with God, the less we sin, and are filled with greater peace and the more disposed we are to do His Will.

This is incentive for us to keep on praying even when we think that God doesn't hear us or doesn't even care. It would be different if we asked Him for something and we could at least get an immediate answer like yes, no or wait, like we tend to get when we ask a question to a fellow human being. God doesn't work like this because He needs to test us. He tests us because He loves us. Again, He does this because He wants us to know how strong our faith is or isn't. We have to work for all the good things we have and we have to constantly work on our relationship with Him, too, because it is the best. 

Jesus came to save all of us. By this example in today's Gospel, He wants to show us that He saves everyone whether or not they are Israelite and to show, most of all, His chosen people, that there are others who have great faith in Him despite not knowing Him as well as they do. If they took time out to understand the Scriptures, they would know that Jesus is who He says He is and would understand that they should believe in Him in the same way, if not more. And if they did believe in Him, what great things He would do for them. But these things are great in the eyes of the Lord, not in the eyes of the world.

He's waiting to do great things for us, too. Will we let Him?

Written by Fr. Jim Curiel, OCD
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