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.
by Father Greg Friedman, OFM
What’s behind a story? Specifically, what’s behind today’s Gospel story? There Jesus meets a Gentile mother who pleads for an exorcism for her daughter. Surprisingly, Jesus says that his mission is only to Israel. But after the woman persists Jesus acknowledges her faith and finally grants her petition for healing. So, what’s behind this unusual story?
Scripture scholar Father Donald Senior suggests that the story points to the “mission theology” of the fledgling Christian community that gave rise to the Gospel of Matthew. Did some early Christians hesitate to take the Gospel beyond the limits of Israel? Historically, probably Jesus didn’t take his preaching much beyond his own people, with relatively few Gentile contacts. And yet the Gospel message was destined to reach the “ends of the earth” after Christ’s resurrection.
So, the evangelist—who probably ministered to a community consisting of both Jews and Gentiles–wanted to make such a wider audience part of his own community’s “mission plan.” Matthew relates a story that shows how a mission to the Gentiles could still respect the historical role of Israel in first hearing the Good News.
That missionary task—which is still ours today—demands the persistence and faith of that Canaanite mother who first confronted Jesus.
by Father Dan Kroger, OFM
• In the first reading (Is 56:1, 6-7), Isaiah tells the people what do. What does he want?
Then he talks to foreigners (that is, Gentiles) who do what?
• Who does Paul write to in this week’s second reading (Rom 11:13-15, 29-32)? Is it Jews or Gentiles?
Paul is confident that the gift of God’s mercy is intended for all. Can God’s call be taken away?
• The Gospel (Mt 15:21-28) says that Jesus went to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Can you find those places on a Bible map?
Who comes to Jesus asking for his help? What does this woman want?
At first, how does Jesus respond to her?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
• In the Gospel, Jesus heals the daughter of someone he at first seems to reject. We can learn a lot by reaching out to people who are different than us. Make an effort to talk with someone of a different race, religion, or nationality than you.
• Similarly, do some research and learn about something you didn’t previously know, such as a different language or how to fix or build something.