These past few weeks we have been following gospel texts about the Kingdom of God and then two great theophany moments, when God’s glory is revealed up the mountain (the Transfiguration) and on the sea (Jesus walking on water). This weekend we have a contrast moment when Jesus is amazed at the Canaanite woman’s Faith rather than the onlookers being amazed at Jesus. The woman had many things against her, firstly (sorry ladies) she was a woman; secondly she was not Jewish; thirdly she was a despised Canaanite – the original people of that area; and fourthly she seems to be begging for her daughter. At first Jesus seems aloof and somewhat culturally antagonistic to this foreign woman saying that he was sent for the children of God not the dogs. Yes, the language is derogatory. The key element is that the woman persists and does what Jesus often does with folk, she gently throws the remark back at him revealing a greater truth…her faith (remember she has used the Messianic title, “Son of David”, when she called out to him). Jesus is amazed at her perseverance and faith and as always when faith is shown a miracle of healing can take place. This is one of the Gospels’ great moments of illustrating how not to allow our culture to destroy our common humanity by allowing prejudice of whatever hue to cloud our sight.
So what might cause us to reflect today? On the human level do we accept the stranger in our midst, this is a telling issue for us here in the current climate of political life in America. After the racial tension in Charlottesville we must ask, “How inclusive are we?” “How open to people of other cultures, races, creeds and beliefs are we?” Let us be clear, the Catholic Church brooks no discrimination. Alongside this, are we, like Jesus, open to breakthrough our own cultural formation and be amazed about the faith of others, be they Christians of other denominations or other religions? Whilst it is fair to say that we believe in the one true God and believe that we have the fullness of God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, we also believe that there are elements of truth in all other religions and that our common humanity is the bedrock of what should unite us and bring us closer to God’s purpose. Vatican Council II referred to the “seeds of truth” in other religions. Peter Berger, a well-known sociologist of religion, called it poetically, “The rumor of angels” in all religions. As Jesus says himself in John’s Gospel 10:16 “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd”. We must see this in the context of John10:10 when Jesus is telling us that he came to show us how to be human. That’s the challenge!!
May God Bless You and Your Families,
Fr. Aidan Peter, CJ