Reflection for Wednesday, August 3, 2005: 18th week in Ordinary Time.
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Bannantine, Tom, S.J.
It is a fact of life in our modern world that people in free countries protest when they don't agree with a particular point of view. Sometimes protestors go too far. They will interrupt a speech by a government official or political candidate and have to be removed from the premises by security personnel. They make such a nuisance of themselves that they must be removed so that the majority of the audience can hear what is being said.|The Canaanite woman in today's gospel was being such a nuisance. She kept calling out and interrupting Jesus and his disciples. She was interfering with the rest of the crowd as they tried to listen to the words of Jesus. She was a real nuisance and the disciples were upset about it. But the disciples were hesitant to send her away. While Jesus was with them they deferred to him. They finally asked Jesus to send the woman away. But the response of Jesus was not to send her away, but rather to converse with her. As I read this gospel story I listen to the words of the Canaanite woman. I listen to her reason for being a nuisance and interrupting Jesus. As I listen to her words I am doing what Jesus did. He listened to her and helped her to ask for what she needed, the cure of her daughter. She must have loved her daughter very much because she was willing to go to great lengths, even making a nuisance of herself, to attract the attention of Jesus and gain his help.|Why did Jesus grant the wishes of this woman, who was not an Israelite? She was a gentile and a member of the Canaanites whom the Israelites considered very sinful. Jesus tells us why in his own words: "O woman, great is your faith." Jesus helped her because she showed great faith. Her faith was greater than that of many of the Israelites in the crowds following and listening to Jesus.|The story of the Canaanite woman is one of several in the gospel story that show us how much Jesus valued the virtue of faith. In Matthew's gospel we hear of several miracles where Jesus praises the faith of the person seeking the miracle. In addition to the cure of the Canaanite woman's daughter, there are the cures of the centurion's servant, the woman with the hemorrhage, and the cure of the two blind men. In each of these Jesus comments on and praises the faith of the supplicant. Even more remarkable is the fact that the centurion and the Canaanite woman were not Israelites. In this gospel reading Jesus tells his disciples that his mission on earth is only to the people of Israel. Yet because of their great faith he makes an exception and miraculously rewards the Canaanite woman and the centurion. In doing so, Jesus shows us the importance of faith. The Canaanite woman was among the first gentiles to know and follow Jesus. As such she sets a great example of faith for all of us who follow Jesus in today's world.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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