20th Sunday: Jesus and the Canaanite Woman: Faith and Healing and Universality of Salvation

From Connections:

Baggage check
A woman, a divorcee, was explaining to her daughter why she never remarried.
“The men I know will bring too much heavy baggage to the marriage and I simply don’t want to put up with it.”
The daughter listened sympathetically to her mother's explanation.  Then she took her mother’s hand in hers and said as lovingly as she could, “But, Mom, you're not exactly carry-on yourself.”

Yes, indeed, we do have high standards – for other people.  We are quick to assess people purely by our own measure of what is right and good; we determine their worth by their function or their usefulness in helping us accomplish our own goals and agendas; we quickly size up people by our own inaccurate and sometimes bigoted stereotypes; we become so obsessed with numbers and demographics that we forget that we are dealing with flesh-and-blood human beings with hopes and beliefs and feelings.  In honoring the goodness and love of the Canaanite mother for her sick child – who, as a Canaanite, represented one of Israel’s most despised enemies – Christ illuminates our vision, enabling us to see one another as God sees us.  The call to discipleship demands that we look beyond labels and stereotypes to realize that every one of us is a child of God, brothers and sisters all. 
The first reading reflects a time during the period of restoration after the return from Babylon. Since the returned exiles constituted a small group, they tended to be inward-looking. The prophet encourages them to be open to foreigners because God intends his house to be a ‘house of prayer’ for all the peoples’ God is a God of all and excludes none. One of the darker sides of our humanity is our tendency to be exclusive. We build our own little world and God helps those who disturb it! We tend to join exclusive groups. New members are grudgingly accommodated. Thank God for being exactly opposite! God is totally and forever inclusive.

 Gentlemen and Gentile Woman
 A gentleman was boasting about the superiority of Catholicism and the holiness of his priests to a Hindu and Muslim friend. Debating at the crossroads they spied a sadhu going into a brothel. “Saw that?” sneered the Catholic. “Our priests won’t be seen there!” Minutes later, a Mullah covered his face with his shawl and entered the brothel too. The Catholic remarked, “Ah, ha, Mullahs are no better than sadhus!” Just then the parish priest also slyly entered the brothel. The Catholic sighed sanctimoniously, “I wonder which of those girls is sick and in need of sacraments!” Strangely, ‘we’ are always holier than ‘they’ just as Pharisees in Jesus’ time claimed superiority over gentiles.
Francis Gonsalves in ‘Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds’

 In today’s gospel Jesus speaks openly to a pagan woman, who asks him to cure her daughter. At first Jesus seems to refuse, saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman persists noting that even dogs feed on the crumbs from the master’s table. The woman in the story teaches us a few truths about our faith and prayer. The first thing she teaches us is persistence. Her persistence is recognized by Jesus. This is an important lesson when all of us struggle. Are we persistent? The woman in the gospel reminds us that sometimes the sheer persistence can be the prayer, the good work and the spiritual discipline. The second thing we can learn from this woman is the need for clear focus. When Jesus spoke to her in language that demeaned her people, she did not lose her cool but kept her eyes on the goal of her mission, which was to show that even non-Jews are entitled to God’s blessings in Christ. The third thing we learn from this woman is courage. Being a foreigner and as a woman, it took great courage on her part to approach the all-Jewish and all-male company of Jesus and his disciples. She was unafraid to challenge prejudice and falsity even in religious places. Jesus recognizing her deep faith and humility says, “Let it be done to you as you wish.” Sometimes you hear people say “Ah, it’s easy for you; you have great faith.” Faith doesn’t always make things easier. The opposite is sometimes the case. Faith impels us to persevere, to struggle on, with no guarantee of a happy ending. Faith calls for humility, courage, perseverance and above all love. The nameless Gentile woman is an example of that tough faith we all need at times. But she is also a great example of love. Jesus could just as well say to her: “Woman, you have great love. Be it done for you as you desire.”

Run for your life
 There is an Aesop fable which tells the story of a rabbit and a hunting dog. One day when the dog was out hunting he flushed a rabbit from the thicket and gave chase. The frightened rabbit ran its heart out and eventually escaped. As the dog headed home it passed a farmer who taunted him saying, “You are a fine hunter. Aren’t you ashamed to let a rabbit one-tenth of your size outrun you and get away?” The dog answered, “Ah, but sir, I was only running for my supper, the rabbit was running for his life!” This rabbit was running faster than the fastest man in the world! In today’s gospel we hear a dialogue between Jesus and a Canaanite woman. The woman’s single-mindedness for her daughter’s healing is rewarded. It reminds us of the words of Dwight Eisenhower: “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight – it is the size of the fight in the dog.” Run for your life and you will win the race.
John Pichappilly in ‘The Table of the Word’ 

Let go and …
As he lay on his hospital bed in Melbourne, an Australian Marist Brother told his gathered friends the story of his spirituality. It came from watching trapeze artists performing in a circus a few years ago. Trapeze artists are those who perform in a circus with swings. It is an air borne performance. While talking to one of the artist, he explained, “As a flyer I must have complete trust in my catcher, he explained. He has to be there for me with split–second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.” The artist explained that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When the artist flies, he has simply to stretch out his arms and hands and wait for him to catch him and pull him safely over the apron behind the catcher. The flyer should actually do nothing. The worse the flyer can do is to catch the catcher. The flyer is not supposed to catch the catcher. If the flyer grabbed the catcher’s wrists, he might break them, or the catcher might break the flyer’s wrists, and that would be the end of them both. A flyer has to fly and the catcher has to catch, and the flyer has to trust with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” This is the trust we should have in Jesus and the woman in today’s story demonstrated such a faith.
Augustine K. in ‘The Sunday Liturgy’ 

No giving up
 Once during a particularly severe winter in the Arctic, all but two people in a certain camp died of starvation. The two survivors were an Eskimo woman and her baby. The woman began a desperate search for some means of obtaining food. Eventually she found a small fishhook. It was a simple matter to rig a line, but she had no bait, and no hope of getting bait. Without a moment’s hesitation she took a knife and cut a piece of flesh from her thigh. Using this as bait she caught a fish. She fed her child and herself, saving the fish gut for bait. She lived on fish until spring when she walked out of the camp and found some other people. It was no coincidence that the only adult to survive in that camp was a mother. What kept that mother alive was her concern for her child. There seems to be no limit to what a mother will go through for the sake of her child. A mother does not give up easily.
Flor McCarthy in ‘New Sunday and Holy Day Homilies’

 The look of acceptance
 When I see a beggar in the street or in the Metro, I tend to put my hand into my pocket and give him the first coin –big or small –that I find there. As I give it to him, I look into his eyes and say a few words to him. As our eyes meet, there seems to be a moment of communion and mutual understanding between us that brings me peace. This simple look can give him back a little confidence in himself. Maybe it can give me confidence in myself too. “Every man who loses confidence in himself, who has fallen into the world of alcohol or drugs, who has failed in family life or relationships or work, needs someone who looks at him as a human being with tenderness and trust. And it is this moment of communion that enables him, little by little, to rebuild his confidence”
Jean Vanier, Founder of L’Arche Community

From Fr. Tony Kadavil’s Collection: 

1) “Never give up!”:  Many years ago, in Illinois, a young man with six months formal schooling to his credit, ran for an office in the legislature. As might have been expected, he was beaten. Next, he entered business but failed in that too, and spent the next seventeen years paying the debts of his worthless partner. He fell in love with a charming lady, they became engaged – and she got sick and died, causing her lover a mini nervous breakdown. He ran for Congress and was defeated. He then tried to obtain an appointment to the U.S. Land Office but didn’t succeed. He became a candidate for the Vice-Presidency and lost. Two years later he was defeated in a race for the Senate. He ran for President and finally was elected. That man was Abraham Lincoln. Today’s Gospel   presents a Canaanite woman who persisted in her prayer on obtained from the Lord what she prayed for. ( Fr. Tony    

2: “If Christians have caste differences…” M. K. Gandhi in his autobiography tells how, during his days in South Africa as a young Indian lawyer, he read the Gospels and saw in the teachings of Jesus the answer to the major problem facing the people of India, the caste system. Seriously considering embracing the Christian faith, Gandhi went to a white-only church one Sunday morning, intending to talk to the pastor about the idea. When he entered the Church, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and told him to go and worship in another church with his own colored people. Gandhi left the church and never returned. “If Christians have caste differences also,” he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” (Fr. Munacci) ( Fr. Tony    

3: Religious fanaticism: A Jewish professor of psychology said of his tradition, “If there are ten Jewish males in a city, we create a synagogue. If there are eleven Jewish males, we start thinking about creating a competing synagogue.” A Baptist police officer had a similar tale. He said, “One Baptist family in a neighborhood witnesses until they bring another family to Christ. Then they form a Church, and start witnessing to the rest of the community. When another family joins, they have a schism and form a rival Church.” According to a Presbyterian homemaker, her communion was a little like vegetable soup. “We have,” she said, “the OPs, RPs, BPs, and Split Peas!” And a Methodist businessman complemented these tales with an apocryphal tale of a man from his Faith community who had been shipwrecked for years on a small island. When found by a passing ship, rescuers asked him why he had constructed three huts, since he was there by himself. “Well,” he replied, “that one is my home, that one is my Church, and that one is my former Church.” Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus extended his healing mission to the Gentiles too. ( Fr. Tony    

4. Faith in theory and action: A man who was walking close to a steep cliff lost his footing and plunged over the side. As he was falling, he grabbed the branch of a tree that was sticking out about half-way down the cliff. He managed to hang onto a weak limb with both hands. He looked up and he saw that the cliff was almost perfectly straight and that he was a long way from the top. He looked down and it was a long, long way down to the rocky bottom. At this point the man decided that it was time to pray. He didn’t pray a long, wordy prayer. He simply yelled out, “God, if you’re there, help me!” About that time, he heard a deep voice coming from high up above that said, “I’m here My son, have no fear.” The man was a little startled at first by God’s voice, but he pleaded, “Can You help me? Can You help me?” God replied, “Yes, I can My son, but you have to have Faith. Do you trust Me?” The man answered, “Yes Lord, I trust You.” God said, “Do you really trust Me?” The man, straining to hold on replied, “Yes Lord, I really trust You.” Then God said, “This is what I want you to do: let go of the limb, trust Me, and everything will be all right.” The man looked down at the rocks below, then he looked up at the steep cliff above him and yelled, “Is there anybody else up there who can help me?”

25-Additional Anecdotes

1) Rootedness of Christianity in Judaism: Jean Marie Cardinal Lustiger, a twentieth century French Catholic prelate once explained, “I was born Jewish and so I remain, even if that’s unacceptable for many. For me, the vocation of Israel is bringing light to the goyim. That’s my hope and I believe that Christianity is the means for achieving it.” In this same regard, Karl Barth noted, “Jews have God’s promise, and if we Christians have it too, then it is only as those chosen with them, as guests in their house, that we are new wood grafted on to their tree.” Speaking to an audience of Jewish men and women, Pope John Paul II declared, “You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.” Each of these three statements underscores the rootedness of Christianity in Judaism and recalls the experience of Saul, a Jew who accepted Christ as his Messiah; Paul longed for the day his fellow Jews would do likewise, as recalled in the second reading today. ( Fr. Tony     
2) “Are you waiting to speak to one of us?” Here are a couple of stories about Dorothy Day, the founder of the Catholic Worker Movement, demonstrating how she valued each human being as a child of God and hence, as important. A reporter came to interview her at her office on 4th Street in Manhattan. He could see her talking to a man who was either drunk or mentally ill. Time passed and the reporter grew impatient. Dorothy finally appeared and said, “Are you waiting to speak to one of us?” Obviously, Dorothy did not think that she was more important than the person she was talking with. On another occasion, a woman came in and donated a diamond ring to the Catholic Worker. Her co-workers wondered what Dorothy would do with it.  If she asked one of them to take it to a diamond merchant and sell it, it would buy a month’s worth of rice and other food items for a poor family. That afternoon, however, Dorothy gave the diamond ring to an old woman who lived alone and often came to Dorothy for meals. “That ring would have paid her rent for the better part of a year,” someone protested. Dorothy replied that the woman had her dignity. So she could sell it if she liked and spend the money for rent, a trip to the Bahamas, or keep the ring to admire. “Do you suppose,” Dorothy asked, “God created diamonds only for the rich?”     Dorothy Day was one of the prophets of her day. Her vision allowed her to see all human beings as equal – no one distinguishable from another. She recognized, as Mother Teresa did, the mark of the children of God in everyone, in the same way Jesus recognized God’s child in the Canaanite woman who belonged to a race inimical to the Jews. ( Fr. Tony     
3) “Love it?” she said, “I hate it!” Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of our 32nd President, knew how to assert herself. She once left the White House to visit a prison in Baltimore. Her departure was so early in the morning that she decided not to disturb her husband. Shortly after he got up, he contacted her secretary to ask where his wife was. She replied, “She’s in prison, Mr. President.” “I’m not surprised,” replied FDR, “but what for?” [Bob Dole, Great Political Wit: Laughing (Almost) All the Way to the White House (New York: Doubleday, 1998), p. 79.] Eleanor Roosevelt was a woman of quiet strength. She was not deliberately controversial, but she was not reluctant to speak her mind about things she considered important. Jesus tells a parable about another such woman in today’s Gospel. Eleanor Roosevelt, late in her retirement, spent part of her day diving from the board into a pool. People by the score filled the pool, and children, too, noticed her diving, swimming, climbing out, and diving again. Someone walked up to her and said, “Mrs. Roosevelt, you surely must love to dive.” “Love it?” she said, “I hate it!” “Well, why do you bother to do it then?” “Someone must set an example for the children,” she replied. In her own gentle but determined way, every dive she made was an encouragement, a push, for those children who, bug-eyed and open-mouthed, watched this old woman and began to think, “Well, if she can do it, I guess I can, too!” Hers was a life-giving push, which nudged these children toward their potential. God’s pushes are always life-giving. Oh, they deal death to the old ways, yes, but only to clear the deck for the new ways, which make life better. The Gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with a Canaanite woman is one of those surprising and uncomfortable pushes. ( Fr. Tony     
4) Universal fraternity: There is a story about a man named Jeremy Cohen, a Texan who, with his family, became host to a rabbi from Moscow one Christmas. To treat the rabbi to a culinary experience unavailable to him in his own country, Cohen took him to his favorite Chinese restaurant. After an enjoyable meal and pleasant conversation, the waiter brought the check and presented each person at the table with a small brass Christmas ornament as a complimentary gift. Everyone laughed when Cohen’s guest turned the ornament over and read the label “Made in India.” The laughter quickly subsided, however, when everyone saw tears running down the rabbi’s cheeks. Cohen asked the rabbi if he were offended at having been given a gift on a Christian holiday. Smiling, the rabbi shook his head and answered, “No, I was shedding tears of joy to be in such a wonderful country in which a Chinese Buddhist restaurant owner gives a Russian Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu in India.” Today’s Gospel episode describes how Jesus extended his healing mission to the Gentiles. ( Fr. Tony     
5) “Lord, I believe:” If you want to get into Olympic competition, you’d better be a pretty good athlete. If you want to get into the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, you need excellent musical ability and training. If you want to get into the Miss America Pageant, you’ll be greatly helped if you are good-looking and somewhat talented. But to get into the Kingdom of God, all you need is Faith – to say, “Lord, I believe,” and to say this, not in words alone, but also in action, expressing Faith through life. The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel story believed. ( Fr. Tony     
6) “But not with that bunch.” Billy Graham once told of an incident that happened a long time ago when teachers could talk about religion in the classroom. A teacher was talking to her class of young boys, and she asked, “How many of you would like to go to Heaven?” And all the hands instantly shot into the air at once, except one. She was astounded. She asked, “Charlie, you mean you don’t want to go to Heaven?” He said, “Sure, I want to go to Heaven, but not with that bunch.” Unfortunately, that is how many religious groups feel about one another. Consider the Middle East, in parts of Lebanon, Christian militias fighting each other and in Syria and Iraq extremist Muslims driving all Christians from their territories on pain of death, unless they convert. All three great Faiths in that part of the world trace their origins through the patriarch Abraham. All three of them honor the Mosaic Law. All three are monotheistic. And yet as the political walls of this world come tumbling down, the religious walls seem to grow higher and higher. How tragic. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus healed the daughter of a Gentile woman in spite of the religious prejudice of his fellow Jews for the Gentiles. ( Fr. Tony     
7) “Nag, nag, nag.” A cartoon in a magazine showed a woman preacher speaking from the pulpit. Two middle-aged portly men were seated near the front. Looking up at the preacher, one of them said, “Nag, nag, nag.” It is a truism that men do not like nagging women. In his Journal, John Wesley tells of some Methodists who were arrested for disturbing the peace with their prayers. They were brought to court, and the judge asked what the charges against them were. One reported, “Your honor, they pretended to be better than other people; and besides, they prayed from morning to night. And what’s more, they even converted my wife. Until she started going among Methodists, she had such a tongue! And now she is quiet as a lamb.” The judge shouted, “Let them go! Let them all go and convert all the nagging wives in town!” In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus and the disciples were confronted with a nagging woman. ( Fr. Tony     
8) “Our Lord Jesus was just a bit of a liberal.” There is a wonderful story about a church in Holland, which felt strictly bound to obey the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy. On a certain Sunday, however, the area was threatened by a terrible storm. There was concern that if the dikes were not strengthened, the people would not survive. The police notified the pastor of the danger. He was faced with the decision of whether to call off the services and urge his people to work on the dikes. Unable to make the decision, he called a meeting of his council to decide. The council concluded they would go on with their services. After all, God is omnipotent. He could always perform a miracle with the wind and waves. Their duty was to obey His commands. The pastor tried one last argument. Did not Jesus himself break the commandment and declare that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? Then an old man stood up and said, “I have always been troubled, Pastor, by something I have never ventured to say publicly. Now I must say it. I have always had the feeling that our Lord Jesus was just a bit of a liberal.” (Kasemannin, Jesus Means Freedom). Today’s Gospel presents such a “liberal” Jesus extending his healing touch to a Gentile woman. ( Fr. Tony     
9) It says, “Kills fleas for six months.” Jesus never met a person he didn’t love. People from all kinds of situations found themselves comfortable in his presence. He didn’t come across as stuffy or pretentious. It reminds me of the story of a priest in the mountains of Kentucky who had gone home with a family of new converts for dinner. He was received cordially by all but the small daughter in the family, who stared at him unblinkingly throughout the meal. The priest, somewhat uncomfortable, tried to put the little girl at ease. “Is it my collar you are staring at?” he asked, taking it off and holding it up. When he did so he saw the cleaning instructions on the inside of the collar, and to make conversation, he asked, “Do you know what it says here?” “Yes,” responded the little girl. “My cat has a small collar like it. It says, Kills fleas for six months.” [Buddy Westbrook, London, Kentucky, Loyal Jones, The Preacher’s Joke Book (Little Rock: August House, 1989), p. 26.] I can hear Jesus telling such a joke on himself, can’t you? People who are secure in themselves don’t have to “put on airs.” He was open and caring. People of all sorts were drawn to him, including the Gentile woman in today’s Gospel story. ( Fr. Tony     
10) “The Lady in whom Jesus Christ has come to live.” Catherine Lowe was a young wife and mother. Her husband was the warden at Sing Sing. In the early years of this century, women were not allowed inside the prison “not even the warden’s wife.” Catherine was filled with love, though, and wanted to share her gift of love with other people. She inquired and was told she was absolutely, totally, forbidden to enter the prison. Catherine was a strong-willed woman. When the first inmate basketball game was announced, she risked harsh disciplinary action by taking her two little girls and sitting in the bleachers to watch. Much to her amazement she was not chastised for her action. That one step led to bolder steps. She wanted to help the prisoners. She knew love could make a difference in anyone is life. One day she met a murderer named Jack. He was one of the toughest of the tough. He was big and black and blind, a victim of harsh and cruel racial injustices. Catherine felt drawn to this hardened criminal. “Hi, Jack,” she introduced herself one day. There was no response. The scarred, battered face stared back with icy, unseeing eyes. “What books do you read?” she asked him. The silence was broken. He spit out the words, “I am blind, lady! I can’t read!” This was her opportunity. “Oh, what about Braille?” she asked. No one had even told Jack about Braille let alone taken the time to teach him. “You can read with your fingers!” Catherine explained as she stroked his rough hands. “Please,” she said, “let me see your fingers.” She touched his fingertips, and said, “You can read with your fingertips. I’ll teach you.” And she did. Then she found another inmate and discovered that he was deaf. He could not hear or talk. Catherine learned sign language so she could communicate with this man. She opened doors to worlds of love for one convict after another. And that love redeemed and restored some of the toughest of the tough, the meanest of the mean. In Sing Sing, they called her, “The Lady in whom Jesus Christ has come to live.” Catherine gave her best, a miracle happened inside the walls of a prison and lives were forever changed. A blind man learned to read. A deaf man learned to communicate. A Canaanite woman received healing for her daughter. People are people whatever label they may wear. Faith is Faith wherever we may encounter it. Love will find a way. [Robert H. Schuller, Life is Not Fair but God is Good (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), pp. 103-104.]. ( Fr. Tony     
11) “Baby Snow.” The love and concern for her child shown by the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is quite a contrast with what is happening today. One sub-freezing morning at 3:30 AM in Atlanta during the bitter winter of 1977, a baby was found wrapped in an Indian blanket on the bottom of an apartment complex garbage dumpster. The newborn child was taken to a hospital where nurses named him “Baby Snow.” In the same year a thirty-one-year old woman discovered a new-born baby in a shopping bag lying against a hedge in Brooklyn. Are these rare instances? According to three leading sociologists, the American home is the most violent place in the country. They claim that one million kids are growing up with parents who use guns and knives on them. If we have the compassion of the Canaanite woman, we would have reason to nag Jesus for help. ( Fr. Tony     
12) A tit-for-tat, reminding us of the Canaanite woman: A government clerk was hiking when he came upon a shepherd with a large flock. The clerk looked at the flock and then said to the shepherd, “I’ll bet you I can tell you exactly how many sheep you have here.” The shepherd said, “I doubt you could do that the way they are all bunched together.” The hiker said, “Well, let’s make a wager. If I’m wrong, I’ll give you $100. If I’m right, you have to give me a sheep.” “OK, you’re on.” the shepherd said. “There are 287 sheep here.” said the hiker.  “That’s right,” said the shepherd. You win.  Go ahead and pick out a sheep.” The hiker picked up an animal and put it over his shoulders. “Wait a minute,” said the shepherd, “I bet you I can tell you what you do for a living. If I’m wrong, I’ll give you $100. If I’m right, you have to give the animal back.” “OK” said the hiker. “You are a government bureaucrat,” said the shepherd. “How did you know that?”  The hiker asked. “Put down my dog and I’ll tell you,” replied the shepherd. ( Fr. Tony     
13) All are welcome!: One day, it seems, a certain curious person in heaven asked St. Peter “How many Hindus are in heaven?” Peter replied: “No Hindus”. Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh, then, there are only Christians in heaven?” “No, there are no Christians in heaven either,” replied Peter. “How Many Catholics?” “No, Catholics either.” Then St. Peter said, “Heaven is not meant for any particular group of people. Here, there is no distinction between Hindus, Muslims or Christians for all are welcome in Heaven.” — What else could St. Peter have said? Did not God tell his chosen people, referring to the Temple in Jerusalem which was a symbol of Heaven for them; “My House shall be called a House of Prayer for all peoples” (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( Fr. Tony     
14) The stronger you grow in Love of God in your neighbor, the weaker your doubts about the Faith become: In the book The Brothers Karamazov Dostoevsky refers to an old woman whose spiritual health begins to deteriorate as rapidly as her physical health. One day she discusses her problem with an old priest, named Fr. Zossima. She tells him about her weak Faith and the doubts she is beginning to have: Is there a God Who cares? Is there life after death? Fr Zossima listens compassionately and says: “There’s no way to prove these things, but you can become surer of them.” “How?” cries the old woman. “By love,” says the old priest. “Try to love your neighbor from the heart. The more you love, the surer you will become about God’s existence and life after death. The more you love, the stronger your Faith will grow and the weaker your doubts will become. This is sure. This has been tried. This works.” Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary doctor, makes the same point in his book Reverence for Life. He says something to this effect: “Do you want to believe in Jesus? Do you really want to believe in him? Then you must do something for him. In this age of doubt there is no other way. If for his sake you give someone something to eat, or drink, or wear – which Jesus promised to bless as though it were done to him- then you will see that you really did it for him. Jesus will reveal himself to you, as one who is alive.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( Fr. Tony     
15) Can we go beyond the obvious? A Franciscan Sister of Mercy, herself a Croat who grew up in Serbia, has been working with rape victims of Bosnia as well as trying to find housing for the many refugees. Dressed in her nun’s habit, she goes to a door and pleads with those who answer, “I have no place to stay. I’m hungry. Can you take me in?” Croatia is deeply Catholic country, so the answer to the nun’s plea is almost always, “Of course, Sister.” Then the nun steps back to let the real refugees with her be seen. They are usually taken in by the family. -Application: Can we go beyond our prejudices? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( Fr. Tony     
16) “A child! There is a child! “There is an incident reported as happening during the China earthquake. After the earthquake had subsided, when the rescuers reached the ruins of a young woman’s house, they saw her body through the cracks. But her pose was somehow strange that she knelt on her knees; her body was leaning forward, and her two hands were supporting an object. The house had collapsed on her. With so many difficulties, the leader of the rescuer team put his hand through a narrow gap on the wall to reach the woman’s body. He hoped that this woman could be still alive. However, the cold and stiff body told him that she had passed away for sure. But he was curious to know what she was protecting from earthquake using her body as a cover. So, he knelt down again and used his hand through the narrow cracks to search the little space under the dead body. Suddenly, he screamed with excitement,” A child! There is a child! “The whole team worked together; carefully they removed the piles of ruined objects around the dead woman. There was a three-month-old little boy wrapped in a flowery blanket under his mother’s dead body. Obviously, the woman had made an ultimate sacrifice for saving her son. When her house was falling, she used her body to make a cover to protect her son. The little boy was still sleeping peacefully when the team leader picked him up.” — Today’s Gospel describes the depth of the love of a Canaanite woman for her sick daughter, which prompted her to use all her wits and insistence to get Jesus’ healing attention. (Fr. Bobby Jose quoted by Eddie Cutinha). ( Fr. Tony     
17) The one the Father loves most: A professor of mine once told me the following story: “I’m one of thirteen children. One day when I was playing in the street of our hometown, I got thirsty and came into the house for a glass of water. My father had just come home from work for lunch. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a neighbor. A door separated the kitchen from the pantry and my father did not know I was there. The neighbor said to my father, ‘Joe, there’s something I wanted to ask you for a long time. You have thirteen children. Out of all of them, is there one that is your favorite, one that you love more than all the others?’ I had pressed my ear against the door hoping against hope it would be me. ‘That’s easy,’ my father said. ‘That’s Mary the twelve-year-old. She has got braces on her teeth and feels so awkward and embarrassed that she won’t go out of the house anymore. Oh, but you asked about my favorite. That’s my twenty-three-year-old Peter. His fiancée just broke their engagement and he is desolate. But the one I really love most is little Michael. He’s totally uncoordinated and terrible in any sport he tries to play. But of course, the apple of my eye is Susan. Only twenty-four, living in her own apartment, and developing a drinking problem, I cry for Susan. But I guess of all the kids…. and my father went on mentioning each of us thirteen children by name.” The professor ended his story saying: “What I learned was that the one my father loved most was the one who needed him most at that time. And that’s the way the Father of Jesus is: He loves those most who need Him most, who rely on Him, depend on Him, and trust Him in everything. All that matters is trust. God doesn’t wait until we have our moral life straightened out before He starts loving us.” (Brennen Manning, taken from Lion and Lamb). ( Fr. Tony     
18) Poem-‘The Cold Within’ – Subtitle: ‘200 years of Prejudice’: Six humans trapped by happenstance/ in bleak and bitter cold,/ each possessed a stick of wood,/ or so the story is told. //Their dying fire in need of logs,/ the first man held his back, /for of the faces round the fire,/ he noticed one was black.// The next man looking across the way/ saw one not of his Church/ and couldn’t bring himself to give/ the fire his stick of birch.// The third sat in tattered clothes; /he gave his coat a hitch./Why should his log be put to use/ to warm the idle rich?// The rich man just sat back and thought/ of the wealth he had in store/ and how to keep what he had earned/ from the lazy, shiftless poor.// The black man’s face bespoke revenge/ as the fire passed from his sight;/ for all he saw in his stick of wood/ was a chance to spite the white// The last man of this forlorn group/ did naught, except for gain./ Giving only to those who gave/was how he played the game.// Their logs held tight in death’s still hand,/ were proof of human sin./ They did not die from the cold without./ They died from the cold within.//
–Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus was beyond the prejudice of his people about the pagan Canaanites, bringing healing and salvation to everyone. (James Patrick Kenny; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( Fr. Tony     
19) Gentlemen and Gentile Woman: A gentleman was boasting about the superiority of Catholicism and the holiness of his priests to a Hindu and Muslim friend. Debating at the crossroads they spied a sadhu going into a brothel. “Saw that?” sneered the Catholic. “Our priests won’t be seen there!” Minutes later, a Mullah covered his face with his shawl and entered the brothel too. The Catholic remarked, “Ah, ha, Mullahs are no better than sadhus!” Just then the parish priest also slyly entered the brothel. The Catholic sighed sanctimoniously, “I wonder which of those girls is sick and in need of Sacraments!” —-Strangely, ‘we’ are always holier than ‘they’ just as Pharisees in Jesus’ time claimed superiority over Gentiles. (Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
20) Let go and …As he lay on his hospital bed in Melbourne, an Australian Marist Brother told his gathered friends the story of his spirituality. It came from watching trapeze artists performing in a circus a few years ago. Trapeze artists are those who perform in a circus with swings. It is an air-borne performance. One of the artists had explained to him, “As a flyer I must have complete trust in my catcher, He has to be there for me with split–second precision and grab me out of the air as I come to him in the long jump.” The artist explained that the flyer does nothing and the catcher does everything. When the artist flies, he has simply to stretch out his arms and hands and wait for him to catch him and pull him safely over the apron behind the catcher. The flyer should actually do nothing. The worse the flyer can do is to catch the catcher. The flyer is not supposed to catch the catcher. If the flyer grabbed the catcher’s wrists, he might break them, or the catcher might break the flyer’s wrists, and that would be the end of them both. A flyer has to fly and the catcher has to catch, and the flyer has to trust with outstretched arms, that his catcher will be there for him.” — This is the trust we should have in Jesus and the woman in today’s story demonstrated such a faith. (Augustine K. in The Sunday Liturgy; quoted by Fr. Botelho). ( Fr. Tony     
21) A Mother’s Faith and perseverance in prayer: Augustine’s mother, Monica, was a fervent believer who prayed constantly for her son’s salvation. She devoted her whole life to praying for Augustine’s conversion. At one point, when Augustine was becoming devoted to the Manichaean philosophy, Monica begged Saint Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, to speak to Augustine, and show him why their beliefs were not true. Ambrose refused because Augustine was known to have a great intellect and would likely try to savage the holy man’s arguments. The Archbishop assured Monica that he, too, had once been a Manichaean, and that Augustine was too smart to deceive himself much longer. At this, Monica began to cry. Gently, Ambrose dismissed her, saying, “Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” Saint Ambrose was right. After many years and a fierce inner struggle, Augustine was touched by a revelation in Scripture, and became a Christian. When Monica learned of her son’s salvation, she remarked that she had nothing left to live for, for the greatest desire of her heart had been fulfilled. Nine days later, Monica died. And the son she had spent her life praying for, went on to affect the whole world. Monica never quit asking. “Live on as you are living,” said St. Ambrose. “It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost.” — You are concerned about someone you love? Keep on asking God for help. Don’t let your tears quench the flame of your Faith in God. It may seem like God is ignoring you, but I assure you that is not the case. Don’t give up. Keep asking. And keep on trusting. (King Duncan, When You Need Help, adapted from Ruth Bell Graham, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them). ( Fr. Tony     
22) “But I am really glad that both of us are Halloween.” Two little neighbor girls about the same age, one Christian and one Jewish, were constant companions. After one Easter holiday, the grandfather of the Christian girl asked her what her friend had received for Easter. The girl looked at her grandfather in surprise, and said, “But Grandpa, you should know that Becky is Jewish and she wouldn’t get anything for Easter.” Then she went on to explain patiently, “You see, I am Easter and she is Passover. I am Christmas and she is Hanukkah.” Then with a big smile, she added, “but I am really glad that both of us are Halloween.” [Chuckle Town Times; cited in Quote (12-15-88), p. 376.] — Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman reveals the divisions among peoples that are still tearing our world apart even today. When we get to know one another, however, as Jesus got to know the woman in this brief episode in his ministry, we see that people are people, whatever labels they may wear. ( Fr. Tony     
23) “I moved the fence.” During the World War II, a small group of soldiers were on a special mission. Their good buddy had died of wounds he suffered during the war. They wanted to bury their friend in a proper grave. They wandered through the countryside until they came to a little village. They found a Church with a small graveyard. The cemetery was surrounded by a white picket fence. The young men found the parish priest and asked if the soldier could be buried in the Church cemetery. The priest expressed his sympathy and asked if the soldier was a Catholic. They said he wasn’t. The priest said he was sorry, but the graveyard was reserved for the members of the Holy Church. He told the young men that they could bury their friend right outside the fence and that he would personally care for the grave. The soldiers were very grateful to the priest and they buried their friend right outside the cemetery on the other side of the fence. Finally, the war was over. The soldiers returned home. One year, at their reunion, they made plans to visit the graveside of their friend. The village hasn’t changed much through the years, and they easily found the Church but couldn’t find the grave of their friend. The priest recognized the former soldiers and went out to greet them. They told him that they could not find their friend’s grave. The priest explained that it just didn’t seem right that the soldier was buried outside of the fence. “So, you moved the grave?” asked the loyal friends. “No,” said the priest, “I moved the fence.” — Time. Each of today’s Scripture Readings speaks of the universal nature of God’s salvation. It is not limited to the Jews only, His chosen people, but also extends to the Gentiles and foreigners. God is the God of all nations and He moves the fence to include all people. (Quoted by Fr. Lakra). ( Fr. Tony     
24) No Hindus, Muslims or Christians in Heaven: A story is told that one day a certain curious person in heaven asked St. Peter: “How many Hindus are in Heaven?” St. Peter replied: “No Hindus.” Then he asked: “How many Muslims?” “Not even one,” replied St. Peter. The man was surprised. He said: “Oh then, there are only Christians in Heaven?” “No there are no Christians in Heaven either,” replied St. Peter. “How many Catholics?” asked the man. St. Peter replied: “No Catholics either.” Then he continued, “Heaven is not meant for a particular group of people. Here there is no distinction between Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists or Christians, for all are welcome in heaven, for here they are all children of God.” — We are the followers of Christ and we believe in our salvation through Jesus Christ. What is our view regarding salvation of others? Is there salvation outside the Church? All the three Scripture Readings of today tell us that God intends salvation to be available for all persons. (Quoted by Fr. Lakra). ( Fr. Tony     
25) . “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Today we might think that is terribly harsh; but we forget our own use of stereotypes or clichés that sound harsh to other cultures. For example: Catholics were oftentimes called “mackerel snappers”; northerners were called “damn Yankees” or “carpetbaggers” by those in the deep south; Jewish merchants were stereotyped as greedy (cf. Shakespeare’s character “Shylock”); and the list goes on. Some name-calling was very rude; at other times it was simply cultural banter. The culture that Jesus lived in was no exception. However, Jesus recognizes the woman’s quickness to reply “in kind.” Picking up on the food metaphor, she uses it herself to prove a point: there is plenty of food to go around, even for dogs. However, like Jesus, she was not referring to nutrition, nor to animals. She was referring metaphorically to the power that Jesus possessed to heal, and to the needs of her daughter. Jesus perceived her correct insight and granted her request because of her “great” Faith. — We can draw an excellent lesson from this exchange between Jesus and the woman. It is this: don’t put Jesus in a box about what he can’t or won’t do. If you have a need, take it to him. He alone is worthy, but he reads our hearts and responds accordingly. Have Faith! (Bishop Clarke). ( Fr. Tony.  L/20


1. Crossing Barriers
2. Refusing to Be Put Off
3. Going in Faith and Humility

What would you think if I told you that on your tombstone would be inscribed a four-word epitaph? Well, you might respond, it would depend on who would write this epitaph--an enemy or a loved one. It might also depend, you might say, on how well this person knew and understood you. If a newspaper critic wrote of a concert pianist the four words: "He was a failure," you could always say: That was his opinion. But if one of the world's great musicians wrote, "He was a genius," then you are apt to take the remark more seriously.

There was a character in the Gospel who Jesus once described with four immortal words: Great is your faith. She was a Canaanite woman who came from the country to the north of Palestine, a country hostile to the Jews. She was presumably married, she had at least one child; but that's all we know about her. We don't know whether she was a good woman or a bad woman. We don't know her name. All we know of her is that in this single encounter with Jesus he spoke to her this four-word epitaph: Great is your faith.

Only four words but they are enough to make her immortal. We can trust these words as being true because the expert on faith spoke them. Jesus searched for faith, as a gem collector would fine jewels. He did not always find it in his disciples. On no occasion that we know did he ever say of Peter, James, and John: Great is your faith. More often the words he spoke to them: You of little faith. On only one other occasion did Jesus praise a person for their faith. Interestingly, that was a Roman soldier stationed in Capernaum.

We regard this Canaanite woman with more than just an academic interest. She awakens in us a feeling of admiration, perhaps even envy, because she stands where most of us would like to stand... 
"Trending" as in "what's trending?" is a social networking term used to describe what latest "hot new thing" is gaining popularity online and in our TGIF (Twitter, Google, Instagram, Facebook) culture. If you know what is "trending" then supposedly you've got your finger, or at least your texting finger, on the pulse of "what's happening" in the world today. 

What have you heard is trending? Anyone?...This would be a great time for you to enter the congregational space and interact with your people about what "trends" they're tracking...You may want to prime the pump and ask some of your youth what music is trending...what's their favorite musician, and then ask if that musician is "cool" or not cool? . . .  

At the end of the interaction you might want to mention that you've heard that the country that's trending most right now is South Korea, that in Asia and many other places, but not yet in the US, South Korea and everything Korean is hip (see Euny Hong's The Birth of Korean Cool (2014). Although you might want to mention that "fanbots" may be a Korean idea that will never catch on. "Fanbots" are robot fans that you can rent if you can't attend a baseball or soccer game. They attend for you, sit in a special section for robots, and they can cheer, chant and even perform a wave, whatever you instruct them to do as you watch the game through their eyes. 

Here's something ironic about all this trendiness. The problem is that closely following and participating in what is "trending" guarantees that you are NOT a "trend-setter." Instead you are jumping on the "trending" bandwagon, letting the collective online crowd determine what you think is worth your time and attention. To be perennially "trending" is like being forever trying to join that most popular "clique" in junior high and high school. As soon as you "join in" it's no longer the coolest, latest thing. Sometimes the most relevant is not the most recent but the most ancient... 
Breaking down Barriers

 C.S. Lewis once wrote an essay entitled The Inner Ring. He says in the article that in any playground or office or church there are little groups or rings of people who are on the "inside". And those who aren't: those who don't get picked at playtime, those who stand on their own in the lunchroom. Lewis says that the existence of such rings is not necessarily bad. We're finite beings, and we can only have deeply intimate friendships with a limited number of people. But he says that the desire to gain status or self-worth by being part of an "inner ring" is deeply destructive. It causes you to constantly compare yourself with others, to feel anguish when you're left out, and deeper anguish when someone close to you gets let in. Worst of all, once you're in, you want to keep others out, because it's the exclusive nature of the group that makes you feel good. 

Jesus' disciples wrestled often with that desire to be part of the inner ring. They argued over who should have the seats closest to Jesus. They asked Jesus to bring down fire on pagan villages. They rebuked little children for coming in too close and wasting Jesus' time. Jesus must have often shaken his head because he was constantly teaching about who was in and who was out, about God's desire to bring into the inner ring of his love anyone who will come. One of the most intriguing stories about status is this one in Matthew 15:21-28.

John Tucker, Breaking Down Barriers: Inclusion
 A Mother's Faith

 Augustine's mother, Monica, was a fervent believer who prayed constantly for her son's salvation. She devoted her whole life to praying for Augustine's conversion. At one point, when Augustine was becoming devoted to the Manichaean philosophy, Monica begged a holy man to speak to Augustine, and show him why their beliefs were not true. The holy man refused because Augustine was known to have a great intellect, and would likely try to savage the holy man's arguments. The holy man assured Monica that he, too, had once been a Manichaean, and that Augustine was too smart to deceive himself much longer. At this, Monica began to cry. The holy man sent her away, saying, "Go, go! Leave me alone. Live on as you are living. It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost."

 The holy man was right. After many years and a fierce inner struggle, Augustine was touched by a revelation in Scripture, and became a Christian. When Monica learned of her son's salvation, she remarked that she had nothing left to live for, for the greatest desire of her heart had been fulfilled. Nine days later, Monica died. And the son she had spent her life praying for, went on to affect the whole world.

Monica never quit asking. "Live on as you are living," said the holy man. "It is not possible that the son of such tears should be lost." You are concerned about someone you love? Keep on asking God for help. Don't let your tears quench the flame of your faith in God. It may seem like God is ignoring you, but I assure you that is not the case. Don't give up. Keep asking. And keep on trusting. 

King Duncan, When You Need Help, adapted from Ruth Bell Graham, Prodigals and Those Who Love Them.
Learning to Be Like Christ

A householder keeps faith, keeps care, of all those in his household. This is what the Canaanite woman learns from Jesus' example. And this is what she reveals back to him.
In other words, Jesus "learns" to hear his own words through the ears of her faith. That's why ultimately Jesus declares, "Woman, great is your faith" - not, "You are very clever."

This is how philosopher Dallas Willard puts it, as he defines exactly what is a disciple: "One of those who have trusted Jesus with their whole life, so far as they understand it. Because they've done so, they want to learn everything he has to teach them about life in the kingdom of God now and forever, and they're constantly with him to learn this. Disciples of Jesus are those learning to be like him" (Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ, 241).

 Leonard Sweet, Collected Sermons,
 Don't Jump to Conclusions

A family of five was enjoying their day at the beach. The children were playing in the ocean and making sand castles when in the distance a little old lady appeared. Her gray hair was blowing in the wind and her clothes were dirty and ragged. She was muttering something to herself as she picked up things from the beach and put them into a bag. The parents called the children to their side and told them to stay away from the old lady. As she passed by, bending down every now and then to pick something up, she smiled at the family. But her greeting wasn't returned.

 Couple weeks later this family learned that little old lady was a retired school teacher who'd made it her lifelong crusade to pick up bits of glass from the beach so children wouldn't cut their feet. And as she picked up the broken glass, she prayed for the people who had dropped it, even though she didn't know who they were.

Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, gave his life on the cross so that we might know the love, forgiveness and acceptance of our God. Jesus died for each of us personally. We can't look at another human being without thinking to ourselves, Jesus died for them, too. We do a disservice when we jump to conclusions about people because of how they look, where they live or the type of work that they do. We are all equal Jesus' eyes.

Billy D. Strayhorn, From the Pulpit, CSS Publishing Company
 Thinking of Nothing Else: Concentration

The famous one-time Catholic monk, Martin Luther, was legendary not just for nailing a piece of paper to the door of his home church citing 95 things that needed to be changed about it. He wrote and lectured extensively to his students at the university as well. Some of his students were very good learners, and others were not so good. But a few of his students realized that some of the most valuable instruction that Luther gave was not in the classroom, but was in the dining hall over a meal and a few drinks. His students began taking notes on what Luther told them in that relaxed atmosphere, and they eventually published these notes in what was known as Martin Luther's Table Talks.

One such example of the profound insight and truth Luther gave his students happened one day after class in the dining hall and they were all sitting around eating their meal and talking on the subject of prayer. A student of Luther's by the name of Viet Dietrich preserved Luther's words for us:

"When Luther's puppy, Tölpel, happened to be at the table, looked for a morsel from his master, and watched with open mouth and motionless eyes, Luther said, 'Oh, if I could only pray the way this dog watches the meat! All his thoughts are concentrated on the piece of meat. Otherwise, he has no thought, wish, or hope'" (Table Talks, May 18, 1532).

Martin Luther's puppy reminds me of the woman in today's Gospel lesson from Matthew. Although this woman was a Gentile, from the region of Tyre and Sidon (modern day Lebanon), she couldn't think about anything other than Jesus healing her daughter.

 J. Curtis Goforth, O.S.L., I Ain't Too Proud to Beg
My Guitar Is Tired

Classical guitar maestro Andres Segovia is adored by his public, especially by the British. They do not let him go easily after a performance. Following two exhausting encores one night in London, Segovia, then 92, was forced to concede: "I would love to go on playing," he said, "but my guitar is tired."
Jesus knew what it was to be tired. He knew what it was to need a change.

King Duncan, Collected Sermons,
 A Strong Woman

 A strong woman works out every day to keep her body in shape, but a woman of strength kneels in prayer to keep her soul in shape.
 A strong woman isn't afraid of anything, but a woman of strength shows her courage in the midst of fear.
 A strong woman won't let anyone get the best of her, but a woman of strength gives the best of her to everyone.
 A strong woman walks sure-footedly, but a woman of strength knows God will catch her when she falls.
 A strong woman wears the look of confidence on her face, but a woman of strength wears grace.
 A strong woman has faith that she is strong enough for the journey, but a woman of strength has faith that in the journey she will become strong.

 Author unknown
One of the most respected personalities in the entertainment world today is a man named Quincy Jones. Performer, composer, promoter, producer, director, arranger--Qunicy Jones is all of these and much, much more. In recent years, he has also become known for his amazing ability to bring together the superstars of the entertainment industry, getting them to blend their talents and work together, share the spotlight and function as a team to produce something that is very special. He can bring together stars such as Diana Ross, Kenney Rogers, Aretha Franklin, Michael Bolton, Gladys Knight, Kenney G., Lionel Ritchie, and many others; he can give them a single phrase there, and combine their artistic skills into a powerful and moving expression of music.

Perhaps Jones is best known for the production of the hit recording "We are the World," which featured the combined talents of many of the top pop singers of our time. Do you know how he did it--how he persuaded those music superstars to come together and work as a team to create that song? Well, he did a very interesting and, evidently, effective thing... 


Brothers and sisters, in today's Gospel we remember the Canaanite woman whom Jesus heard. With her, let us prostrate ourselves before the Lord; let us ask of him forgiveness for our sins; and let us implore him: "Lord, come to our aid!" 

When we do not know how to pray with perseverance, as the Canaanite woman did, forgive us, Lord. 

When we do not know how to pray with humility, as the Canaanite woman did, forgive us, Lord. 

When we do not know how to pray with faith, as the Canaanite woman did, forgive us, Lord. 

May Almighty God who sent his Son Jesus Christ to the lost sheep of the house of Israel have mercy also on us all. May he forgive our sins and bring us to eternal life. 

Or O woman, great is your faith! 

God's salvation is extended to all, no matter what gender, ethnic origin, or religious affiliation. All we need to have is faith. Let us sincerely ask ourselves how well we have lived our life of faith and ask God to give us a deeper and greater faith and pray:

Lord Jesus, you are the Lord, Son of David, who came to save the lost sheep of IsraelLord, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you graciously extended your mission to include everyone in God's kingdom. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you bring us healing and wholeness. Lord, have mercy. 


Like the Canaanite woman, let us not grow tired of imploring the Lord.

For the Church. May she extend her welcome to all people of goodwill, and become a house of prayer for all nations.
For the country which was the home of Jesus; for the territory of Tyre and Sidon. May the peace of God come upon this land.
For those in authority. May the Lord help them to maintain equity so that justice might reign.
For the lost sheep of the house of Israel. May the Lord, whose call is irrevocable, show them the fullness of his mercy.
For those who are tormented by the devil. May they obtain their deliverance thanks to the intercession of the Church.
For the strangers who live among us. May they find welcome in our community and be happy with us.
For parents who have children in difficulty. May their prayers be answered like the prayer of the Canaanite woman.
For our community gathered together by your love. May our prayer be humble and persevering, like the prayer of the Canaanite woman, so that it may touch the heart of Jesus.

Let us recommend also to the love of the Lord all the other intentions that we carry in the depths of our hearts.

God our Father, we implore you, with the Canaanite woman: "Come to our aid!" Through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

In all the readings of today, we encounter and are made aware of the great truth that salvation is for all irrespective of one's caste, creed, nationality or race. The salvation that God our loving father envisages for us his children, is for all, every nation and all ages. This is categorically reiterated by Paul in our first reading, when he tells that "God's gift and his call are irrevocable." Our lives are oriented and ordained toward the redemption in view of realizing and experiencing the "image and likeness" with which we are created. Our re­ceptiveness for God's grace releases us from the compulsion of self‑deception and we gra­ciously share in the divine life, something which we can never effect ourselves.   

In our first reading today, Prophet Isaiah brings home the message to us that all people will be drawn together in worship of God. The prophet's call does not exclude anyone but includes everyone whether one is an Israelite or not. Everyone is invited to join the Lord and encounter him in his or her life.  

In today's Gospel, Mathew presents us a radi­cal, dynamic and persevering example of faith. The Canaanite woman, an outsider, though apparently rejected by Jesus by not heeding to her plea, continues persistently for her cause. She knew to whom she was talking to and what he was capable of realizing for her. The woman trusted in Jesus in the depth of her heart and surrendered herself to his mercy, while keeping up her faith. She let Jesus act and waits in surrender, trust and above all in a persevering faith.  

The Canaanite woman, unlike Peter, begins with faith. She acknowledges who Jesus is ‑ Lord, Son of David ‑ and pays him homage; only then does she pray for help and receives what she asks for her daughter. The surprise and Good news is that whether we begin in doubt and come to belief or begin with great faith, Jesus responds‑his mission that is to bring salvation to all.            

The persistent and uncompromising faith the Canaanite woman had in Jesus teaches a great lesson. In faith, there is always a room for mystery. As we do not know how the seed strikes root, shoots up and bears fruit, we need to patiently wait, letting God act in his time, on his own terms and conditions. Faith pre­supposes perfect trust and surrender and this is what the woman does in her life. The willing­ness to surrender to God holds the promise to connect us with our true selves and with the reality of God in our lives and in the world. 

The woman surrenders herself to the Lord that enables her to enter and immerse into the deep­est realm of life itself. This sense of self‑sur­render helps the woman to believe that Jesus is both willing and able to heal her daughter, no matter whether he regards her or not. By this incident, Jesus candidly brings home the pow­erful and challenging message that by the fact one is possessing the status of a "son" does not presuppose the availability of salvation. The "dogs" are also entitled to be counted among the sheep and are raised to the status of the "Son" and inherit the redemption that Jesus will obtain and make available to all. 

Here is a woman who refused to believe that her pleas were going to the dogs. She deeply believed in the Lord, but it was only through her perseverance that she obtained her request. The Lord is compassionate and merciful even when it seems that he is not. We must be able to endure being ignored, rejected and hurt, for these are the real tests of perseverance. In the face of adversities, we need to stand by that unshakable faith that God will provide in the mysterious ways of his own divine providence. The poet Longfellow wrote of this in Psalm of life: "Let us then be up a doing, With a heart for any fate, Still achieving, still pursu­ing, Learn to labour and to wait".

Diocese helps Kashmiri women stand up for their rights

Village women attending the Catholic Social Service Society program to create awareness about the rights of women at Nagrota village in Jammu and Kashmir state, in this file photo. (Photo by Umar Manzoor Shah)
Darshana Devi, in India's northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, recalls the ordeal of trying to find out why her name disappeared from the records of a government scheme providing monthly pensions to destitute widows.

The 56-year-old, from isolated Dansal village, lost her husband 15 years ago, but her monthly pension of 1,500 rupees (US$23) kept the rice pot boiling. She was never told why she was removed from the beneficiary list in 2014. Repeated attempts to solve the riddle failed, she told

After suffering hardship, Devi came to know about a program run by Jammu-Srinagar Diocese's Catholic Social Service Society under which village women are trained to press for their rights and entitlements. The diocese covers the entire Jammu and Kashmir state.

Devi was told about the Right to Information Act (RTI), a federal law, which helps any Indian access information from government departments and agencies. The law stipulates requests should be responded to within 30 days.

Devi filed an application under the provision. However, she was shocked to learn that even the names of unmarried girls had been included as pension recipients by some corrupt officials.

Following her complaints, officials cancelled the earlier list from which she had been omitted and prepared another one. "My name was there in the new list," Devi said with a smile. "Now I get the monthly pension on time."

The Catholic Social Service Society programme also engages in capacity building for village groups and networking with locally elected bodies.

Father Preful Tigga, assistant director of the society, said an aim was to focus on marginalized women.

Hina Qadir, a research scholar in sociology at the University of Kashmir, said although women form 47 per cent of state's 13 million population, comparatively less had financial independence. She noted that of the state's 3.75 million workforce, just over a million were women.

However, Qadir told that many village women remained unaware of available support options.

Renuka Kumari, a member of the church-run program, felt proud to solve a "crisis" in her village. Last month, local women complained they were being cheated by a dealer at a government-run 'fair price' shop. As a result of representations, the women were given a full quota of wheat.

In another village, action was taken to rectify shortcomings in a program designed to make sure pregnant women, adolescents and children were not malnourished.

News of their success spread to nearby villagers who also succeeded in having grievances addressed.

The society's director, Father Saiju Chacko, said empowerment of women led to social change. "When a woman is empowered, she is aware of her rights and she can assert herself to demand her rights," he said. "She is no more a victim, but becomes a voice for the voiceless."

The priest expressed hope that the day would soon come when village women had collective leadership ensuring greater control of resources, with men as supportive and responsible partners.