1. Is 56:1.6-7
3.Mt 15:21-28


The readings of 20th sunday  of the year invites us to get rid of our prejudices and misconceived thoughts towards others. The book of deuteronomy shows the closed mentality of Israel towards foreign people, the gentiles. The book forbids hebrews any contact with foreigners to avoid being defiled with them and thus being drawn away from Yahweh ( Dt 7:2-5). The foreigers of course could not become members of their communities and were excluded from prayers and sacrifices in the temple.

The exile in Babylon, a very bitter and painful experience, but it was also useful because it helped them to mature both humanly and religiously. Israelites were forced to compare themselves with other peoples and thus correct their misconceived thoughts and prejudices. In the course of living in exile, they found out that even pagans were not evil by nature, but often led very moral lives. Pagans had something positive and good that also could be shared and enjoyed by Israelites. The religion of Pagans moreover, was not made up of false hood and corruption, but contained valuable and good social precepts. On their return from exile, Israelites were not the same as before.

The prophet we read today, prophet Isaiah, lived during the exile period, he learnt a lesson in Babylon to open his heart and was now able to see good things in other peoples. An invitation to us too to appreciate good things in our brothers and sisters. He saw that the time had come to drop limitation imposed by deuteronomy. We are invited to put away barriers that separate ourselves from the rest, such barriers are tribalism, race,gender, culture and nationalism.

From the second reading, we are told that the disobedience by Jews to accept the message of God had also a positive result, it has led christian community to open themselves up to Pagans. Just think if all Jews had accepted Jesus what would have happened?? with their close minds and prejudices towards foreigners regarding them  not as themselves( Israelites)  thus the pagans would have found themselves to difficult to enter the church.

From the Gospel reading, we hear a canaanite woman asking  Jesus to cure her daughter. In those days the jews thought that they were only priveledged to be pure human beings. They looked on Pagans as dogs, simply because they did not know the law of God and yet were not circumcised. Jews regarded themselves as delight of the Lord. In the early church the apostles found themselves faced with problem of whether to admit or not to admit foreigners into their christian Community.Jesus himself limited his ministry  to the members of his own people and when sending out his disciples had told them not to turn their steps to Pagans territory and not to enter any samaritan town but to go rather to the lost sheep of house of Israel.( Mt 10: 5-6) why did he issue  such an issue, did he not come to bring salvation to all? the answer is yes, the goodnews had to be announced to all the world.

Where was the starting point of this good news?? God's programme was that salvation was to be announced firs to the people of Israel, to those who for many centuries had been prepared to understand it and to receive it. Thus it was logical and fitting that Jesus should spend his time with the people of Israel, to the case of foreign woman looking a cure to her daughter from Jesus, what is the reaction of Jesus to that woman?? Would  Jesus stick and obey the rule that forbade Jews to speak to such people, would he break down the barrier?? Jesus at the beginning seems to refuse to give a help and not paying attention to that woman at all, even his disciples pleaded to Jesus to send her away, Jesus in respond says " I was sent to the lost sheep of Israel" (vv24) when the woman kneels down he becomes quite offensive to her by saying " It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the house of dogs (vv26)

Was what Jesus did quite correct? the answer is No! his words give make us to understand that like all his countrymen he has nothing but contempt for foreigners and reject them all, but is this really the case?? Not at all.The rest of the story shows how it was a show to lead his apostles to a radical change of heart, and bring them to an attention on the new way of thinking. " woman you have great faith" by curing the daughter of the canaanite woman, he teaches his disciples that the time  has come to pull down the Barriers that divide people( Racism, tribalism, Nationalism etc) Jesus also touches the issue of classless society, by living in such society it will be easy to welcome God's reign. We are all people of God. Just notice how Jesus ridicules the spiritual guides of his people/challenging the spiritual guides of his people and shows them that pagans have more faith that the Israelites " dogs are better than masters" have we removed the barriers in our lives that divide us??

Thus as we celebrate 20th sunday of the year A ordinary time we are invited to seek the Lord Jesus with expectant faith. Jesus praises a gentile woman for her faith and for her love on account of her daughter's sickness, she made the misery of her child her own, yet she was willing to suffer at the expense of her daughter, we too are we ready to encounter such a challenge more especially when our relatives/ friends are seeking our help?? what do we do when being confronted by the miseries that are not ours? A woman with begun with request and ended her knees in worshipful prayer to Jesus. Let's also bend our knees to Jesus asking him to grant  us  his graces and help of what we do ask Him. 

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Chapisha Maoni