Fr. Mike’s homily for Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I (1)

Fr. Mike’s homily for Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time Cycle I

Theme: Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

 

Homily for Wednesday August 4 2021

Mt 15:21-28
Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!” “Lord, help me!”
These are words, not only of desperation, but also of firm conviction and faith. The pagan woman is sure that Jesus is no ordinary prophet. The title “Lord” or “Kyrios” in Greek is used to address God. Though a pagan, she believed in Jesus as Lord.

Surprisingly, though, Jesus seems uninterested in the plea of the woman. Surely He must have heard her loud and clear, for it is likely that she has been insisting for a long time. In fact, His disciples, clearly tired of her, told the Master, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” On almost all occasions Jesus shows His deep compassion for the poor, the sick and the needy. The reaction, therefore, of Jesus to the pleading woman is rather unlikely of Him.

Why did Jesus not respond to her? Perhaps He did not answer in order to elicit from her something more profound and edifying, especially to the Jewish crowd. He remains silent, not because He is ignoring her or intending to refuse her, but so that her humility and persevering faith may clearly manifest, and thus, merit to receive the favor she asks from Him.
Then, after ignoring her for some time, Jesus finally speaks to the woman: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” He may sound rude and arrogant, and anyone could be easily offended and insulted by these words. But Jesus is just using a popular colloquial term. The Jews commonly used the terms ‘dogs’ and ‘swine’, in referring to the Gentiles. Jesus Himself used this term in one of His teachings: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Mt 7:6).

The dog was regarded as an unclean and promiscuous animal. However, in this instance, Jesus uses the word in its diminutive form: κυναρίοις (‘little dogs’). As such it refers not to the wild and unclean beasts that roam the streets but to the little dogs that are bred in the house, and kept as pets. Hence, these words of Jesus indicate the picture of a family meal, with the pet house-dogs running round the table. In fact, in the version of Mark’s Gospel, the woman implies that the children are the masters of the little dogs: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps” (Mk 7:28).

Jesus is genuinely pleased with the response of the woman. She agrees that she has no right to ask any favor from Jesus for, after all, she is an outsider. She comes from a different race and has different religion. But she makes it clear that she is imploring Jesus not on the level of the children of Israel, but just similar to a little dog under the table. It is like saying, “If I am a little dog, then I have the right of little dogs, that is, the crumbs that fall from the table belong to me!”

We may recall the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves. From five loaves and two fish, Jesus fed five thousand men, not counting women and children. But the blessing is so abundant that there were twelve baskets full left over (Mt 14:20). God’s graces are overflowing that the woman is all too certain that there will always be something left for the ‘little dogs’, that is, for ‘outsiders’, the gentiles like her!

Membership in God’s family is measured not by birth or circumcision but by a living faith in Jesus as Lord. In the ultimate analysis, it is not race or religion that truly matters, but faith: , “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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