Jesus tests a Gentile woman’s faith and casts a demon out of her daughter. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Diligence so he can relentlessly engage in the battle of prayer and by growing in the Virtue of Religion so he can never fail to keep his Sunday Obligation to attend the Mass. 

Liturgy

20th Week in Ordinary time – Sunday – Cycle A – Mt 15:21-28

Commentary

After clashing with the Pharisees, Jesus withdrew to the Gentile territory of Canaan. Tracing to the time of Noah, the man Canaan was from an incestuous union of Noah’s son, Ham, and Noah’s wife; from then on, Canaan, his descendants, and the land named after him were cursed (Gen 9:18-25). The pagan Canaanite woman, by screaming for mercy for her demon-possessed daughter, demonstrates her desperation, love for her child, and astounding courage and faith: Canaanites and Jews had centuries-old animosity and violent conflict; women did not approach men directly; a Canaanite pagan did not approach a Jewish rabbi. The Canaanite woman’s desperate screams for her demon-possessed daughter show astounding faith; she addresses Jesus as “Lord” and “Son of David”, and begs  with heart-felt faith that Jesus can completely heal her daughter. 

Jesus first ignores her screams and the disciples ask Jesus to send her away; He also ignores the disciples’ request, instead, revealing His priority are the “lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6). The persistent woman then quietly kneels at His feet and begs for help. Surprisingly insulting, Jesus likens her and her entire people to “dogs”, filthy scavengers unworthy of holy blessings. The persistent woman humbly addresses Jesus as “Lord”, embraces Jesus’ insult of being like a scavenging dog, and obediently begs for “scraps”, like a little dog at her master’s feet. 

In a stunning reversal, Jesus exclaims, “O woman, great is your faith!”; Jesus seldom uses “O” and it is an intimate encouragement to her; His use of “woman”, recognizes her dignity as one of His children. Rather than being coldly harsh, Jesus acts deliberately to test and draw out the woman’s faith, to make clear His Divinity, and to offer the disciples a lesson in how to respond to persistent souls with mercy, even Gentiles with whom Jews had ancient animosities.

Be awed by Jesus Christ

Be impressed with how Jesus, with the perfection of the Divine Prophet, draws out the pagan woman’s faith: despite the pagan woman’s act to fall at His feet and beg, Jesus offers a surprisingly Harsh Rebuke to her first request to test her faith, and Insults, comparing her (and all her people) to an unclean dog (a strong insult/curse); Divine Justice, in His condemnation of the Canaanites, Jesus confirms some cultures are diseased, rightly condemned and damnable and must be rejected by His disciples; when the woman persists in humility and faith, Jesus offers emphatic Encouragement to her and uses Divine Power to miraculously heal the woman’s daughter from afar.

Be relentlessly diligent in the battle of prayer

Realize: Unlike the persistence of the Canaanite woman, many men fail to pray or are lax in their prayer disciplines. 

Believe: Reflect upon the Battle of Prayer (CCC 2725-2741).

Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Diligence (a part of Temperance) so I commit to and follow a discipline of daily prayer; my Father, give me the grace so I may someday hear You say to me, “O man, how great is your faith!”

Never fail to keep your Sunday obligation

Realize: Sadly, many Catholic men have drifted away from the Church and fallen into grave sin because they fail to keep their obligation (“a binding pledge”) to attend Sunday Mass.

Believe: Reflect upon The Sunday Obligation (CCC 2042, 2180-2183).

Pray: Jesus, Divine Priest, help me build the Virtue of Religion (a part of Justice) so I always fulfill my obligation to attend Sunday Mass, I strive to give You my best during Mass, and I immediately confess my sin in the Sacrament of Penance if I fail.