10 August 2011

'Woman, you have great faith.' Sunday Reflections, 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A, 14 August 2011

The Prophet Isaiah, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, painted 1726-29 (see first reading)
Readings (New American Bible, used in the Philippines and the USA)

Gospel Matthew 15:21-28 (Jerusalem Bible, used in Australia, England and Wales, Ireland, Scotland).

Jesus left Genenesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel’. But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs’. She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table’. Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter was well again.

Soiscéal Matha 15:21-28 (Gaeilge, Irish)

San am sin chuaigh Íosa i leataobh go dtí ceantar na Tuíre agus Shíodóine. Agus bhí bean Chanánach a tháinig amach as na críocha sin agus thosaigh sí ag glaoch os ard: “Déan trócaire orm, a Thiarna, a mhic Dháiví,” ar sise, “tá iníon agam agus í á crá go géar ag deamhan.” Ach ní dúirt Íosa focal ar bith á freagairt. Tháinig a dheisceabail chuige agus bhí siad ag impí air: “Scaoil uait í,” ar siad, “tá sí ag glaoch inár ndiaidh.” D’fhreagair agus dúirt: “Níor cuireadh mé ach amháin go dtí caoirigh caillte theaghlach Iosrael.” Ach tháinig an bhean agus d’fhan ar a dhá glúin ina láthair: “A Thiarna,” ar sise, “fóir orm.” D’fhreagair agus dúirt: “Níl sé oiriúnach arán na leanaí a thógáil agus é a chaitheamh chun na gcoileán.” Dúirt sise: “Cinnte, a Thiarna, agus itheann na coileáin féin na grabhróga a thiteann ó bhord a máistrí.” Ansin dúirt Íosa léi á freagairt: “Ó, is mór é do chreideamh, a bhean! Bíodh agat mar is áil leat.” Agus bhí a hiníon leigheasta ón nóiméad sin.

Vegetable Seller, Joachim Beuckelaer 

My late mother loved to bargain, when buying clothes and when buying fruit and vegetables. She usually bought the latter at the store of a woman named Chrissie Caffrey, whose sister Maggie had a similar store across the road. There were usually a few cats around but the vegetables and fruit on sale were fresh. Sometimes as a child, listening to my mother, I would think that she was insulting Chrissie the way she spoke to her. But they both would end up happy, my mother having got a bargain and Chrissie having got a sale.

What my mother and Chrissie did a couple of times a week was a form of banter with a serious purpose. My mother wasn't insulting Chrissie, she was simply looking for a good price. Chrissie didn't take any offence at my mother's words, gave as good as she got - and sold her produce.

One commentary I read on this gospel suggests that Jesus and the Canaanite woman were engaged in something similar to Chrissie and my mother, a form of banter, but with a serious purpose. The words of Jesus comparing the Canaanites, non-Jews, to dogs were insulting at their face value. But the woman didn't take offence, She wanted her daughter healed and that's all that mattered to her. She probably hadn't been among those who heard Jesus' Sermon on the Mount when he said, among many other things, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you (Mt 7:7). But clearly she had heard something about Jesus, of his love for the poor, for the sick, for the tormented. Because she persisted, giving as good as she got, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table’, she heard the astounding words of Jesus, ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’

It wasn't the first time Jesus responded to a non-Jew and remarked on that person's faith. Before we receive Holy Communion we pray the words of the Roman centurion who had come to Jesus with a similar plea to that of the Canaanite woman, not on behalf of his daughter but of his servant, 'Lord, I am not worthy . . .'

Everyone who asks receives; everyone who searches finds; everyone who knocks will have the door opened (Mt 7:8).
The Solemnity of the Assumption

The Solemnity of the Assumption begins with Evening Prayer on Sunday. That means that a Sunday evening Mass should be the Mass for the Vigil of the Assumpion , not that of the Sunday or the Mass During the Day of the Assumption.

At the end of Night Prayer a Marian Anthem is always sung or recited. Ave Regina Caelorum is considered especially appropriate for the Assumption.

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