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Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

Reflecting on Matthew 15: 21-28

I was reading a piece written by an Orthodox Jewish woman recently, and I had to laugh. It was just last year that she realized that the Canaanites had been living in the Promised Land for hundreds of years before the Hebrews came in from the desert and “took possession” of it.  Nobody told us that people were already living there! she shouted. That changes everything!

It’s kind of like the first time we figured out Columbus didn’t exactly “discover” America. Indigenous people had been fishing, hunting, and living here for at least ten thousand years before the Europeans arrived. That changes everything.

That all races through my mind as I envision that brave Canaanite woman, descendant of one of the early inhabitants of that land, reaching out to Jesus, begging him to heal her daughter who was being tormented by a demon (perhaps an unknown mental illness).

At first he rebukes her, and then becomes delighted at her courageous retort. This is the kind of faith he’s been longing for! And it comes from a woman (an outsider in that male-dominated world) and a Canaanite. It brings to mind Sacagawea, who spoke dual languages, leading the way for Lewis and Clark in 1800. A woman, and a Shoshone, led them to the Pacific. Two thousand years earlier, the Syro-Phoenician woman led the way to a radical new understanding of who is beloved by God.

But somehow, even though Jesus praised her faith, it didn’t change everything. We still have systemic sinfulness in our dealings with the “other,” and, somehow, those who speak two languages are still made to feel inferior to those of us (like me) who only speak one.

What about the courage of this Syro-Phoenician woman touches you?

Kathy McGovern ©2020

Ordinary Time - Cycle A

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