Homily for the Twentieth Sunday, year A.
In our first reading this morning we heard the prophet Isaiah foretelling that the expected messianic kingdom is not exclusive, it is not a kingdom meant for the Jews alone but for all nations. It does not matter where you come from; your colour, race or tradition are not criteria for making heaven. The prophet Isaiah says that even foreigners who accepts the word of God and hold onto it will be brought to the holy mountain of God, they will become members of the house of God. St. Paul was very proud to have been sent to the pagans to announce the good news of their equality and acceptance into the presence of God, even though the purpose at that time was to make the Jews envious and return to the Lord.
In our gospel passage this morning we meet a none Jew, a foreigner, a Canaanite woman who believed in Jesus Christ and was saved. To be called a Canaanite among the Jews was like a curse, for the Canaanites were pagans who worshiped different gods, they were those people God drove from their own land to resettle the Israelites. They were considered enemies by the Israelites, they were to have no contact with the Israelites in any way. But Christ brought reconciliation as Isaiah prophesied in our first reading this morning, and Paul writing to the Galatians reemphsised this reconciliation by saying: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).
It is in Christ Jesus that we are truly liberated. The Israelites were liberated from the power of Pharaoh, and later from the Babylonian captivity, but it is only by faith in Christ Jesus that we are liberated from the power of sin and death. It is that faith we celebrate today, the faith displayed by a Canaanite woman in our gospel passage this morning. Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon, a pagan territory. Surprisingly, a Canaanite woman from that district came out and started shouting, Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil. But Jesus pretended not to notice her, he ignored her. But his apostles pleaded with him to give her what she wanted because her shout was becoming embarrassing. To this, Jesus replied, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. But the woman would not give up, she blocked his way, knelt down at his feet and pleaded with the Lord; help me. Then Jesus called her a dog; unimaginable!
We are very sure that Jesus did not mean that name calling, but it was a reflection of how the Jews saw the Canaanites. The woman however did not mind, she accepted the name calling and said, Sir; but even house dogs can eat the scraps that fell from their master’s table. At this response, Jesus answered her, saying; woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted. And from that moment her daughter was well again.
This is a very touching story. First of all, Jesus withdrew to pagan territory, a reconciliatory move, and that is how he reaches out to each and every one of us. He calls each and every one of us to be reconciled to God and to one another. This reconciliation is the beginning of every forms of healing and deliverance, we must not let anything hold us back. The Canaanite woman did not let the nature of her territory hold her back. She did not mind the fact that her people did not believed in Jesus, her pagan back grand could not hold her. Whatever her ancestors believed and worshiped was their own problem. Just Like Abraham whose father, Terah, worshiped other gods, but Abraham became a shining example of faith in the living God. The Canaanite woman did not allow what her fathers worshiped to hold her down, she may have even worshiped those things, but they are all in her past. What mattered to her at that moment was that her saviour was around. So, in the midst of paganism and unfaithfulness that defines her territory, she arose and expressed her faith in Christ Jesus; Son of David, take pity on me.
This woman had a problem, her daughter was possessed by evil spirit and desperately needed help. There was no other place to get this help apart from Christ, so, she shouted after Jesus for help. And when Jesus pretended not to notice her, she went in front of him and knelt down at his feet. Jesus’ silence did not discourage her, not even the insult could stop her faith. She knew what she wanted and did not let anything distract her focus. Like this woman we sometimes find ourselves in desperate situations, and in some cases the heavens seemed to be silent about it. Our prayers seemed not to be going anywhere just as the woman’s shouts seemed not to be heard by Jesus. In situations like this we are tempted to give up, especially when we find ourselves in the midst of people, friends and families who do not really believe in the power of Jesus Christ to save. We must not give up, and we must not let ourselves be deceived. God knows you by name, he is ready and able to heal every sickness, and he hears and answers every prayer. If Jesus heard and answered a Canaanite woman who was not baptised, then what about us? It is by faith, do not let your faith be watered down. Those around you may not appreciate your faith, they may not believe in you, but believe in yourself and in your God. with him, all things are possible.
Today, let us be encouraged, let the word of God be your strength and conquer every situation with a shout of faith in Christ Jesus.