Fr. Shawn P. Tunink

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Homily 170 – 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

That Desire Might be Enkindled

In today’s gospel a Canaanite woman comes to find Jesus and asks healing for her daughter. Surprisingly, Jesus won’t even talk to her. When he does finally talk to her he calls her a dog. In the very next sentence he then praises her for her faith in a way that we don’t even see him compliment his disciples. What is going on here?

First, we have to see that this woman is not Jewish. She is not a part of the chosen people. Jews often referred to gentiles as dogs, so we see Jesus repeating a popular objection to involving himself with a non-Jew. Notice though that this woman is said to be coming out from the land of the gentiles and is going toward Jesus. Spiritually, she represents all the gentiles who will come to have faith in Jesus. Most Christians today were not born Jewish, therefore we are gentiles and the fulfillment of the Psalmist’s desire, “O God, let all the nations praise you.”

However, there is a second important reason behind Jesus’ delay in responding to the woman. St. Augustine remarks that “The woman is ignored, no that mercy might be denied, but that desire might be enkindled.” The crisis that led the woman to leave Tyre and Sidon behind, to beg Jesus for help, allowed her desire for God to increase. God wishes to do the same for us. Through the difficulties and struggles of our life, we pray that our desire for God might be increased.

When we are ready to come out of Tyre and Sidon, to leave sin and separation from God behind, we will discover that God is also coming out to meet us.┬áLet us therefore persevere and turn to God in moments of crisis that our desire might be enkindled and we might hear those beautiful words of Jesus, “Christian, great is your faith.”

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