Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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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 "left" the region of Galilee and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon (modern day Lebanon), the ancient, rich and bustling Phoenecian maritime and mercantile cities. Jesus goes to this region probably to rest awhile or perhaps to stay with his disciples to teach them in a quiet place. But immediately a Canaanite woman appeared. The Evangelist wants to underline that they found themselves outside of the territory of Israel and that the woman appearing before Jesus was considered an enemy of the chosen people. The Canaanites were indeed the ancient inhabitants of this region that the Jews had defeated and removed from there. Perhaps it was not by chance that the woman called Jesus "Son of David." Evidently, Jesus’ fame had spread beyond national boundaries. She wants this good man to heal her daughter who is "tormented by a demon." At first, Jesus seems annoyed, but she insists. It is almost as if there is a competition between her and the young prophet: a desperate prayer on one side and silence on the other. The disciples are troubled. "Send her away," they say hurriedly. Jesus responds saying that his mission is limited to Israel. Desperate, the woman continues: "Lord, help me!" And Jesus appears even harsher: "It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs." In the Biblical tradition, the term "dogs" referred to adversaries, sinners and pagan idolatric peoples. But the woman capitalizes on the allusion and says: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table." Even the dogs, the excluded, would content themselves with the crumbs, if they were thrown to them. This pagan woman dares to resist Jesus; even more, she engages in a back and forth with him. We could say that her faith in him was greater than his own resistence. And hence Jesus responds, in the end, with a phrase quite unusual in the Gospels: he says "great" is her faith, not "little" is her faith. It is the same elogy Jesus gives the centurion, and both he and the woman are pagans. Once again the Gospel proposes to us the importance of trust in God, which frees us from the anxiety of trusting only in ourselves and in human beings. This woman’s faith convinces 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 such a faith.