“Your Faith Is Not For The Dogs!” –Matthew 15:21-28†


 

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

 

 

Today’s Content:

 

  • Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • Today in Catholic History
  • Quote of the Day
  • Today’s Gospel Reading
  • Gospel Reflection
  • Reflection Psalm
  • New Translation of the Mass
  • A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day
  • Franciscan Formation Reflection
  • Reflection on part of  the SFO Rule

 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

 

Tomorrow is SOooo special for me.  It is the “Feast of the Assumption”, a Marian Feast Day, and also the Day when I will renew again my “Consecration to Jesus through Mary”, as created and popularized by St. Louis de Montfort (1673-1720).  His “consecration” is a special devotion lasting 33 days before the actual pledge or consecration of one’s total abandonment to Jesus through Mary, as a means to live my Baptismal promises.

This particular Marian devotion was loved greatly, and commented about often, by Blessed John Paul II, “the Great”.

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Next weekend, I will be on my annual SFO Regional Retreat at “King’s House” in Belleville, Illinois.  Franciscans from Southern Indiana, Southern Illinois, and all over Missouri are getting together to rejoice, pray, and interact with, in, and through the Holy Spirit, and in the Seraphic presence of Sts. Francis and Clare.

 

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Today in Catholic History:

    

†   1464 – Death of Pope Pius II (b. 1405)
†   1740 – Birth of Pius VII, [Luigi B Chiaramonti], bishop of Imola/Pope (1800-1823)
†   1941 – Death of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Polish martyr (b. 1894)
†   1961 – Death of Henri-Edouard-Prosper Breuil, priest/archaeologist, dies

(From the “On This Day” Blog Site
otday.wordpress.com &/OR
“Today in Catholic History”
http://www.historyorb.com)

 

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Quote of the Day:

 

 

“No cloud can overshadow a true Christian but his faith will discern a rainbow in it.” ~ Bishop Horne

 

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Today’s reflection is about Jesus healing the daughter of the Canaanite woman because of her great faith.

 

(NAB Matthew 15:21-28) 21 Then Jesus went from that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.  22 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.”  23 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.”  24 He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  25 But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.”  26 He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”  27 She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”  28 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.

 

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Gospel Reflection:

 

 

Last week we read about Jesus walking on the water and the disciples’ “confession” of faith: Jesus is the “Son of God”.  Today we move ahead in our reading of Matthew’s Gospel.  If we were reading Matthew’s entire Gospel, we would have read about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees in relation to Jewish “purity laws”. Jesus argues that it is not what goes into us which makes us unclean; He is referring to the strict Jewish dietary rules created from the Scribes own interpretations of Mosaic Law.

Instead, our words and our actions – – what emit from us – – make us truly unclean, because our words and actions emerge from a heart which is truly unclean through our previous sins and iniquities.

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Today’s Gospel reading describes the only occasion in Holy Scripture when Jesus ministered outside of Jewish territory.  (Tyre and Sidon are fifty miles north of Israel and still exist today in modern Lebanon.)  

Tyre is a city in what is the Southern part of Lebanon today. The city juts out from the coast of the Mediterranean and is located about 50 miles south of Beirut. The name of the city means “rock” after the rocky formation on which the town was originally built.  Tyre is an ancient Phoenician city having many historical sites, including its famous “Roman Hippodrome”.   

 Sidon is also on the Mediterranean coast of present-day Southern Lebanon, about half-way between Tyre to the south and Beirut to the north.  Its name means “a fishery.”  Hmm; I wonder what the main occupation was in Sidon!

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Knowing about Jesus’ debate with the Pharisees helps us to understand today’s Gospel.  In fact, the unread story leading up to today’s reading would heighten the revelation and awe we feel as we “hear” Jesus’ exchange with the “Canaanite woman”.  The woman, who is not Jewish, approaches Jesus with a request that He heal her “demon-oppressed daughter” (I often feel that my teenage son’s are “demon-oppressed”).  At first, Jesus ignores her; He says nothing.  Besides, the disciples ask Jesus to send her away (They love to send people away, don’t they), and Jesus, at first agrees, remarking that He was sent to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” – – “only”.

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A similar story to todays is related earlier in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 8:5-13):

“When He entered Capernaum, a centurion approached him and appealed to him, saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, suffering dreadfully.’  He said to him, ‘I will come and cure him.’  The centurion said in reply, ‘Lord, I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof; only say the word and my servant will be healed.  For I too am a person subject to authority, with soldiers subject to me.  And I say to one, “’Go,” and he goes; and to another, “Come here,” and he comes; and to my slave, “Do this,” and he does it.’  When Jesus heard this, He was amazed and said to those following Him, ‘Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.  I say to you, many will come from the east and the west, and will recline with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the banquet in the kingdom of heaven, but the children of the kingdom will be driven out into the outer darkness, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.’  And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘You may go; as you have believed, let it be done for you.’  And at that very hour (his) servant was healed.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

As in Matthew’s earlier story of the “daughter of a Centurion” above, Jesus breaks with His usual practice of ministering, teaching, and preaching to Israelites only, and in doing so, prefigures the Apostles and the Catholic Church’s mission to the Jews and Gentiles alike.

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Today’s reading has a “Canaanite woman” as the solicitor of help.  Canaanites’ (Gentiles) were a despised race by the Jewish people.   Canaanites, like the woman in this Gospel reading, were inhabitants of a region in the area of what is the present-day Gaza Strip, Israel, West Bank, and Lebanon.  “Canaan” predates the ancient Israelite territories described in the Bible, and describes a land with different, yet, overlapping boundaries.

This Canaanite woman, a non-Jew, is identifying Jesus as her “Lord” and “Son of David”!  By saying these two phrases, she is exclaiming publically that Jesus is the one having power and authority over all others as the divine ruler by hereditary right and ascendancy from God the Father in heavenFOR Jew AND Gentile as well!  She is also declaring her faith – – openly and publically – – that Jesus is the “true” Messiah of the Jewish people; and  as such, He is due our love, worship, and obedience.

 

Jesus tells this Canaanite lady, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (verse 24).  What did He mean by this?  Didn’t He come for the entire human race?!  I believe His “Word” is a foretelling of a future mission Jesus will give to His Apostles, and through them, to the growing Church to come.

Like Jesus Himself, the Twelve Apostles were initially sent only to Jewish territories and people; a way to “get their feet wet”:

Jesus sent out these twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Do not go into pagan territory or enter a Samaritan town.  Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’” (Matthew 10:5-6)

 

The statement, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Verse 24)   may reflect an initial early Christian refusal of missions to the Gentiles.  Or, it could just have been an expression of the limitation – – Jesus Himself – – observed during His ministry, by never travelling any further than about 100 miles from His birthplace.

 

However, the woman persists, paying homage to Jesus, and yet He denies her request again.  Jesus even appears to insult her, using a Jewish word of disrespect for Gentiles (including Canaanites): “dog”:

It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26). 

In a rather quick-witted reply, the “Canaanite woman” cleverly turns Jesus’ “insult” into an affirmation of a deep and “true” faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27).

This witty quip of hers really got Jesus’ attention; it showed the strength of her faith and her persistence.  Only then does Jesus grant her request and heal her daughter.

This woman reminds me of my wife: she won’t take “no” for an answer.  The woman in this story keeps calling out after Him, to the point of annoying the Apostles.  Jesus finally relents, and not only listens to her pleas, but acts on her pleas immediately.

In recalling Jesus’ encounters with women, this seems to be a normal pattern for Him: swiftly relenting to the women in His life.  Mary, His mother asks Jesus to help the wine stewards at the feast in Cana; Margaret asks Jesus to raise Lazarus from the dead; and Mary Magdalene had seven “spirits” removed after asking Jesus.  (Jesus obviously learned early on, the first mantra of every married man: “Yes dear”!!)

 

Now, here’s a little secret!  Jesus does the same thing – – still today – – for both men and women!  All we need to do is ask Him for help, and He will help.  His intervention may not be swift enough for you, and may not even be the way you wanted something carried out.  To be quite honest, you may not recognize that Jesus interven at all, but He always helps anyone who asks.  The divine wisdom of God has no earthly boundaries such as time and space.  Every action He takes has a purpose and reason, maybe ever known to us.  How He acts on a specific request is always for the best outcome of the person making the request, the people involved, and for future circumstances.

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Jesus’ words are specific and purposeful then, now, and in the future.  What did Jesus mean by the phrase “throwing bread to the dogs“?  Jewish custom often spoke of “Gentiles” with conceit and disrespect as likened to “unclean dogs”.  For the Jewish people of this time, Gentiles were excluded from God’s covenant and favor with Israel.  Earlier in Matthew 7:6 records this expression:

“Do not give what is holy to dogs ….” (Matthew 7:6).

And now, I however, believe Jesus spoke to this Canaanite woman with a calm and reassuring voice rather than with an insult.  Why?  Simply because she immediately responded with a quick wit and deep faith:

Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” (Matthew 15:27)

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The children” Jesus was speaking of, were the people of Israel: the Jewish people.  The term “dogs” on the other hand, was (along with the word “swine”) a Jewish term of scorn for Gentiles by the Jewish people: 

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.” (Matthew 7:6)

As stated earlier, dogs and swine were Jewish terms of contempt for Gentiles.  This saying may originally have derived from a Jewish Christian community opposed to preaching the Gospel (what is holy, the pearls) to Gentiles.  Some believe Matthew may have taken this concept and belief as applying to a Christians dealing with stubbornly unremorseful, unapologetic, and/or brazen fellow Christians, as in Matthew 18:

If he refuses to listen to them, tell the church.  If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:17)

I do not believe this was Matthew’s intent or meaning.  My reasoning is in light of what is written in the very last chapter, the very last verses of Matthew’s Gospel:

Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

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Let’s get back to Jesus’ reaction to this woman.  Jesus’ unresponsiveness to her may appear to us as uncharacteristic or possibly even shocking for Him to do to another.  Yet, we need to know and remember that in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ ministry is directed primarily to the people of Israel – the Jewish “Catholic” people.  Only in a very few times, such as this one, do we find Jesus anticipating the later “Catholic (Universal)” Christian ministry to the rest of the world.

Behind Matthew’s written text, we can hear his early Catholic Christian community’s struggle to understand how God’s selection of Israel is unfailing after two recent, specific, and very important events: Israel’s rejection of Jesus by the formal “Leaders” of the Temple (His arrest, scourging, and crucifixion), and the Gentile peoples acceptance of Jesus.  Just as Jesus was surprised by the deep faith of the “Canaanite woman”, so too were the first Catholic Christians surprised that the Gentiles would also receive the salvation God the Father offered to the Jews first, and then to the Gentile world through Jesus Christ.

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Faith is not for the Jewish people alone; it is for ALL mankind and for individual persons as well!  As in the case of the cure of the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:10):

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Amen, I say to you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” (Matthew 8:10),

In both instances of the “Centurion” and the “Canaanite Woman”, Matthew attributes Jesus’ granting of the request to both as His response to their GREAT FAITH.

 

Jesus praises both the “Canaanite woman” and the “Centurion” for their faith, trust, and love.  They made the suffering of their children their own, and were willing to suffer refusal and rejection in order to obtain a healing for their children.  THEY BOTH possessed a “determined persistence” in their request to Jesus Christ; beginning with a request, they both ended on their knees in worshipful prayer and gratitude to the living “Messiah”.  No one who ever sought Jesus, with faith – be they Jew or Gentile – was ever refused His help.  Do you seek Jesus with a confident and “persistent” faith?

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In conclusion, the figure or symbol of a household in which children at a table are fed first, and then their “leftover” food is given to the dogs under the table, is used effectively to acknowledge a prior claim of the Jews to Jesus’ earthly ministry, but not an exclusive claim, as some Jews believed.  However, Jesus Himself grants the Gentile “Canaanite” woman’s plea for a cure for her afflicted daughter, solely out of her strong, confident, and persistently “true” faith in Him as the promised “Son of David”: the “Messiah” who saves both Gentile and Jew.

 

Even when spurned by Jesus, the faith of the “Canaanite woman” makes her both strong and bold enough to confront and ask again for what she needs from Jesus Christ, in order to receive a healing for her daughter.  Her persistence and great confidence, knowing Jesus could heal her oppressed daughter, reminds me of the confidence with which our children bring to us their own needs.  In their “child-like” faith and trust we can find an example of how we might approach God in prayer – – with humility, piety, love, perseverance, and most importantly, simple, child-like FAITH!!.

Let us remember: we don’t pray to change God’s mind; we pray that our minds be changed.  If we got everything we ask for, then WE would be God, and we would have no need for faith in anyone!  There would be no opportunities for other doors to open, and no need to see Jesus in others with whom we come into contact.  I believe, that without faith, there would no longer be any anticipation, wisdom, miracles, sharing, trust, or gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Then, how sad would be the world!

Recall a time when a request for something was presented to you by a friend or family member with confidence and persistence.  If the request was denied, why was it denied?  If the request was granted, what led to a change of heart?  

Were you surprised by Jesus’ initial negative response to the Canaanite woman?  Why or why not?  What made Jesus change His mind and heal the woman’s daughter?  When we pray, God wants us to be  confident in His mercy.  Identify things you need from God (not things you “wish” for).  Pray these “prayers of petition” with a confidence God will hear and answer your prayers.  He always answers ALL prayers, one way or another, and on HIS time (not ours).

 

The faith the Canaanite woman had for the divinity of Jesus Christ is an affirmation of, and confidence in, God’s abundant mercy to all His creation.  Yes, salvation comes through Israel, but it overflows for the benefit of all who believe, live, and journey on Jesus’ pathway to paradise.

 

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Reflection Psalm:

 

 

Psalm 67

All the nations will praise God.

 

May God be gracious to us and bless us; may God’s face shine upon us.  So shall your rule be known upon the earth, your saving power among all the nations.  May the nations be glad and shout for joy; for you govern the peoples justly, you guide the nations upon the earth.  May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you!  May God bless us still; that the ends of the earth may revere our God.” (Psalm 67:2-3,5-6,8)

 

 

Pax et Bonum
Dan Halley, SFO

 

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New Translation of the Mass

 

In November of 2011, with the start of the new Liturgical year and Advent, there will be a few noticeable changes in the Mass.  It will still be the same ritual for celebrating the Eucharist.  The Mass will still have the same parts, the same patterns, and the same flow as it has had for the past several decades.  It is only the translation of the Latin that is changing.

The new translation seeks to correspond much more closely to the exact words and sentence structure of the Latin text.  At times, this results in a good and faithful rendering of the original meaning.  At other times it produces a rather awkward text in English which is difficult to proclaim and difficult to understand.  Most of those problems affect the texts which priests will proclaim rather than the texts that belong to the congregation as a whole.  It is to the congregation’s texts that I will address with each blog, in a repetitive basis until the start of Advent.

In the words of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #11, the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of Christian life. Anything we can do to understand our liturgy more deeply will draw us closer to God.

 

The memorial acclamations that we currently use

have all been changed.

The one that is most familiar to us (“Christ has died, Christ is risen …”) has disappeared completely.  The three remaining ones are similar to those in the current missal, but the wording is different in each case.

Material from “Changing How We Pray”, by Rev. Lawrence E. Mick

 

 

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A Franciscan’s Saint of the Day:  St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe (1894-1941)

 

“I don’t know what’s going to become of you!”  How many parents have said that?  Maximilian Mary Kolbe’s reaction was, “I prayed very hard to Our Lady to tell me what would happen to me.  She appeared, holding in her hands two crowns, one white, one red.  She asked if I would like to have them—one was for purity, the other for martyrdom.  I said, ‘I choose both.’  She smiled and disappeared.”  After that he was not the same.

He entered the minor seminary of the Conventual Franciscans in Lvív (then Poland, now Ukraine), near his birthplace, and at 16 became a novice.  Though he later achieved doctorates in philosophy and theology, he was deeply interested in science, even drawing plans for rocket ships.

Ordained at 24, he saw religious indifference as the deadliest poison of the day.  His mission was to combat it.  He had already founded the Militia of the Immaculata, whose aim was to fight evil with the witness of the good life, prayer, work and suffering.  He dreamed of and then founded Knight of the Immaculata, a religious magazine under Mary’s protection to preach the Good News to all nations.  For the work of publication he established a “City of the Immaculata”—Niepokalanow—which housed 700 of his Franciscan brothers.  He later founded one in Nagasaki, Japan.  Both the Militia and the magazine ultimately reached the one-million mark in members and subscribers. His love of God was daily filtered through devotion to Mary.

In 1939 the Nazi panzers overran Poland with deadly speed.  Niepokalanow was severely bombed.  Kolbe and his friars were arrested, then released in less than three months, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.

In 1941 he was arrested again.  The Nazis’ purpose was to liquidate the select ones, the leaders.  The end came quickly, in Auschwitz three months later, after terrible beatings and humiliations.

A prisoner had escaped.  The commandant announced that 10 men would die.  He relished walking along the ranks.  “This one.  That one.” As they were being marched away to the starvation bunkers, Number 16670 dared to step from the line.  “I would like to take that man’s place.  He has a wife and children.”  “Who are you?”  “A priest.”  No name, no mention of fame.  Silence.  The commandant, dumbfounded, perhaps with a fleeting thought of history, kicked Sergeant Francis Gajowniczek out of line and ordered Father Kolbe to go with the nine.  In the “block of death” they were ordered to strip naked, and their slow starvation began in darkness.  But there was no screaming—the prisoners sang.  By the eve of the Assumption four were left alive.  The jailer came to finish Kolbe off as he sat in a corner praying.  He lifted his fleshless arm to receive the bite of the hypodermic needle.  It was filled with carbolic acid.  They burned his body with all the others.  He was beatified in 1971 and canonized in 1982.

Comment:

Father Kolbe’s death was not a sudden, last-minute act of heroism.  His whole life had been a preparation.  His holiness was a limitless, passionate desire to convert the whole world to God.  And his beloved Immaculata was his inspiration.

Quote:

“Courage, my sons.  Don’t you see that we are leaving on a mission?  They pay our fare in the bargain.  What a piece of good luck!  The thing to do now is to pray well in order to win as many souls as possible.  Let us, then, tell the Blessed Virgin that we are content, and that she can do with us anything she wishes”  (Maximilian Mary Kolbe, when first arrested).

Patron Saint of: Addicts, Drug addiction

Saint of the Day: Lives, Lessons and Feast
By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.;
revised by Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.
(From http://www.americancatholic.org website)

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Franciscan Formation Reflection:

 

SFO Fraternity Life

 

In what ways does an SFO Fraternity show SHARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

In what ways does a SFO Fraternity show CARING on the part of the members?

How is this manifested in your daily life?

 

 

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Secular Franciscan Order (SFO)
Rule #’s 14 & 15 of 26:

 

14.  Secular Franciscans, together with all people of good will, are called to build a more fraternal and evangelical world so that the kingdom of God may be brought about more effectively.  Mindful that anyone “who follows Christ, the perfect man, becomes more of a man himself,” let them exercise their responsibilities competently in the Christian spirit of service.

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15.  Let them individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of their human lives and their courageous initiatives. Especially in the field of public life, they should make definite choices in harmony with their faith.

  

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2 responses »

  1. Hi Dan,
    Wonderful. I do reflect at times that because of Jesus, non-Jewish people have a chance to be saved. I believe that Jewish converts was plentiful but that Jesus as Son of God had a more universal appeal.

    Thanks also for the reflection on Maximilian Kolbe. What a story.

    I wanted to tell you months ago that you are on my blog list (see below.) God bless you. Also, I was a little overwhelmed with all my new candidacy tasks and so I am hoping to join you in the Consecration next year. Happy Assumption Day!

    Pax, et bonum, Sylvia

    • Super Sylvia. If you wish to start sooner, you can go to the consecration website for all the start dates. I will send you a free book and all the info (www.myconsecration.org)

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