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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 15,21-28

Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, 'Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.'

But he said not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, 'Give her what she wants, because she keeps 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 bowing low before him. 'Lord,' she said, 'help me.'

He replied, 'It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to little dogs.'

She retorted, 'Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters' table.'

Then Jesus answered her, 'Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted.' And from that moment her daughter was well again.


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew writes that Jesus "went away" from the region of Galilee towards the district of Tyre and Sidon. These were ancient maritime and mercantile Phoenician cities, rich and flourishing, but also marked by selfishness and injustice, especially towards the poor. It is not by accident that the prophets of the Old Testament pronounce several prophecies of woe against such cities. Jesus travels to this region, and a "Canaanite woman" immediately appears. She is a pagan. She certainly has heard people speak well of Jesus, and she does not want to miss her chance for some extraordinary, miraculous intervention on her daughter’s behalf. When she reaches Jesus, she asks for help for her "possessed" daughter. Despite Jesus’ unwilling attitude, she does not stop crying for help. Her insistence leads the disciples to step in. Just as before the multiplication of the loaves, they want Jesus to send her away: "Make her happy and send her away," they suggest. But Jesus responds by saying that his mission is limited to Israel. The woman, not at all resigned, prays a second time, using words as essential and serious as her daughter’s tragedy: "Lord, help me." And Jesus responds with unheard of harshness: "It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs." In the Jewish texts of the biblical tradition, the term "dogs" refers to enemies, sinners, and the idolatrous pagan nations. But the woman takes advantage of the literal meaning of Jesus’ words and says: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table!" Even the dogs, the excluded, satisfy themselves with crumbs if some are thrown to them. This pagan woman dares to resist Jesus; in a certain sense, she is starting a fight with him. We could say that her faith in that prophet is greater than the prophet’s resistance. Consequently, Jesus responds with an expression that is unusual in the Gospels: this is "great faith," not "little faith." It is the same praise Jesus gives to the centurion; both he and the Canaanite women were pagans. Once again the Gospel places before us the essentiality of trust in God, who frees us from the anguish of trusting only in ourselves and in humanity. This woman’s faith convinced Jesus to heal her daughter. The evangelist writes: "Then Jesus answered her: ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly." Not even God can resist faith like this.

Memory of the Saints and the Prophets