|Reading 1||Response||Reading 2||Gospel|
|Is 56:1, 6-7||Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8||Rom 11:13-15, 29-32||Mt 15:21-28|
How faith brings God’s kingdom
During Ordinary time the Lectionary invites RCIA participants and the believing community to hear and to reflect on Jesus’ teachings from his everyday ministry. This week’s readings focus on the faith that supports our discipleship.
The first reading from the prophet Isaiah challenges the Jews returning from exile in Babylon. The prophet exhorts them to recognize that gentiles who keep the covenant and keep sabbath are part of Israel’s covenant community. Isaiah’s challenge finds a parallel in today’s gospel, where Jesus recognizes and rewards a gentile woman’s faith.
The second reading continues the letter to the Romans. In Romans chapters 9 through 11, Paul explores the mystery of Israel. Through Christ, God offers salvation to Jews and gentiles. Paul recognizes that the Jewish rejection of Jesus paved the way for his preaching to the gentiles. He believes that after all gentile nations hear the gospel, Israel as a whole will embrace it. This will be tantamount to resurrection of the dead; that is, Jesus’ parousia will join all believers–gentiles and Jews–at the end of time.
Matthew’s gospel presents a miracle story, but the healing itself is less important than how the Canaanite woman shows her faith.
- The setting. Jesus and his disciples leave Gennesaret in Galilee and travel west toward the Mediterranean coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, in the Roman province of Syro-Phoenicia, a gentile area.
- The conflict. A gentile Canaanite woman, familiar with Jesus’ miracles, approaches him. Using a polite request formula (“have mercy”), she asks him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus doesn’t respond. For the woman, Jesus’ silence is a test. For his disciples, Jesus’ silence becomes a teaching about their own faith and discipleship.
When Jesus finally addresses the woman directly, he uses a parable about “throwing the children’s bread to little dogs.” In calling her a “little dog”–a common Jewish insult for gentiles–Jesus again tests her resolve. The woman ignores Jesus’ insult. She instead turns the insult about “little dogs” to focus on “little bread crumbs.” She again asks Jesus if the Jewish son of David has one small healing to grant to a gentile.
- The resolution and meaning. Jesus acknowledges the woman’s “great faith.” The woman finds that God’s compassion is available to all. The disciples learn that faith is not limited to one group. Jesus closes with the divine passive (“let it be done”), showing that it is God who acts on the woman’s faith to heal her daughter.
This week’s readings challenge RCIA participants and the believing community to consider our faith. Isaiah makes it clear that faithfulness to God’s law, not ethnicity, determines the people of God. Paul looks for Jesus’ return to bring all people of faith together. Jesus praises the gentile woman’s great faith. Matthew included the Canaanite woman’s story in his gospel to remind his own divided community how far they were from realizing God’s kingdom. We, too, live in divided times. Does our faith bring justice to challenge exclusion? Is our faith great enough to see past a divided world to bring the kingdom?