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Putting Aside Prejudice

August 16, 2020   Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Lectionary: 118)

Reading 1   IS 56:1, 6-7

Thus says the LORD:
Observe what is right, do what is just;
for my salvation is about to come,
my justice, about to be revealed.

The foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,
ministering to him,
loving the name of the LORD,
and becoming his servants—
all who keep the sabbath free from profanation
and hold to my covenant,
them I will bring to my holy mountain
and make joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and sacrifices
will be acceptable on my altar,
for my house shall be called
a house of prayer for all peoples.

Responsorial Psalm   PS 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8

R. (4) O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
R. O God, let all the nations praise you!

Reading 2   ROM 11:13-15, 29-32

Brothers and sisters:
I am speaking to you Gentiles. 
Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles,
I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous
and thus save some of them. 
For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world,
what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. 
Just as you once disobeyed God
but have now received mercy because of their disobedience,
so they have now disobeyed in order that,
by virtue of the mercy shown to you,
they too may now receive mercy. 
For God delivered all to disobedience,
that he might have mercy upon all.

Alleluia   MT 4:23

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus proclaimed the Gospel of the kingdom
and cured every disease among the people.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel   MT 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 Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus’ 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 Jesus 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 the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.

By Pablo Jimenez Meza

I have always struggled to understand today’s gospel. Every time I listen to it, I feel a combination of confusion and indignation. Why would Jesus deny a loving mother’s prayer for her daughter? The Canaanite woman was asking for what Jesus had been doing all over Judea: healing the sick and casting demons out.

Furthermore, why would Jesus refuse to grant her request based on her origin?

After all, it was the same Jesus who had presented the good Samaritan as an example of fraternal love, helping a Jewish man while disregarding the enmity between their two nations.

As I was reading the passage again, I realized my prejudices about this encounter with the Canaanite woman were preventing me from finding Jesus.

From experience, I know Jesus is loving, and He knows what is in my heart better than myself. Jesus knows the good and bad in me; naturally, He also knew the angst and faith in the Canaanite woman’s heart. So, what if Jesus wasn’t refusing to help the Canaanite, but instead revealing her faith to those around who remained hesitant about Him?

I can’t help feeling close to the Canaanite women. That first response from Jesus —His refusal— hurts deeply. I have also been misjudged and rejected based on others’ prejudices, including my origin. Sadly, countless men and women share that experience of rejection and prejudice. The Canaanite woman couldn’t change her origin either, yet she continued praying. She asked again, even if just for some scraps falling from the table… and there it was, her faith revealed in all its fullness and splendor! She firmly believed that small scraps from Jesus’ power would be enough to heal her daughter!

Two thousand years later, here I am, listening to the story of that loving mother from Canaan.

Will I put my faith before my prejudices, to let God give with largesse although I may only ask for scraps?

If Jesus’ rejection hurts, His acceptance of the Canaanite woman’s faith comes as an immense consolation. “O woman, great is your faith,” Jesus celebrated; “and the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.” By praising her faith and healing her daughter, Jesus testified to God’s love. This love embraces everyone and everything, without distinction. There are no foreigners in God’s heart. You and I and every person dwell in the peaceful love of God.

Today, together, let’s pay special attention to this truth as we strive to firmly oppose injustice in the world. With the Canaanite woman in mind and heart, I ask you to pray and work with me to build a world where the joys, hopes and dreams of every color don’t die under the asphyxiating knee of privilege, so that all nations join and praise God as one race, one people, one family. O God, let all the nations praise you!



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pablo Jimenez was born in Puebla, Mexico, and now lives in New York City. He has been a parishioner and catechist at the church of St. Francis Xavier, a Roman Catholic Parish in the Jesuit tradition, since 2017. Pablo works at the Mexican Studies Institute at Lehman College, City University of New York, where he promotes educational opportunities for underserved communities in NYC. He’s an avid reader of Latin American literature, Christian theology and history, and Peanuts. You can follow him here.

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1 comment

  • It os a pleasure for our soul to read this text. Congratulations dear Pablo, God is bleesing you all the time and along your life. Love you dear son, I always be proud of you.

    Alejandra Meza

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