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Do we have great faith? PDF Print E-mail

17 August 2014: Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Woman, you have great faith

Today’s Gospel story is unusual. In it Jesus changes his mind. He meets a foreign woman with a different religion - a double outsider. When she asks him to cure her daughter he answers abruptly, comparing the favour she asks of him to giving the children’s food to dogs. His business is with Jewish people. She turns his quip back on him, saying that even dogs are thrown scraps from table. So Jesus changes his mind, praises her single-minded trust and heals her daughter.

Woman asking Jesus to cure her daughter.

The story cuts close to the people at Jesuit Social Services who work with poor non-Christian immigrant women. We are constantly humbled by how focused they are on what really matters. As for the woman in the Gospel story, this often has to do with their children. To find help for their children they will do almost anything. Indeed, if they are refugees they will already have endured and sacrificed so much for the children. They recall us to our simple shared humanity that God loves. When we recognise it in others, as Jesus does in the woman, it makes us go the extra mile for them.

And yet it is so easy to pass by such remarkable people without even noticing them. They are people of extraordinary resource who humble us deeply by their greatness of heart. And they can teach us about God. In the story God speaks through the stranger, the woman of the wrong race and with the wrong ideas about God.

The woman is also remarkable because she meets and deals with Jesus at his most intimidating. She does not take a step backwards. She is prepared to speak the truth to power, and Jesus praises her for it. She reminds us of how important that directness and freedom of speaking is in the Church and in the wider society. So many people suffer because others are silent either from fear or from a misplaced respect for the powerful.

Pope Francis often urges us to go out of our comfortable world to the edges of our society and church. This is what Jesus does in the story. He learned from the woman he met. And he was clearly encouraged by the meeting. So might we be.

A sharing from Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ

Image source: Hermano Leon Clipart

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