Outrageous Love

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home

August 16, 2020 – Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Matthew 15:21-28

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Today’s gospel shows that Jesus will do things that he might seem not wanting to do. The narrative is set in a region outside the territory where the Jews lived, the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon. While visiting there, Jesus is met by a Canaanite woman, implying that she was clearly not of the Jewish faith. Up until that meeting, the ministry of Jesus focused on his Jewish sisters and brothers. But here comes an “outsider.” Quite naturally, Jesus appears to ignore her, which would be customary back then.

But the narrative doesn’t end there with Jesus. She is a persistent woman. Like so many mothers, her concern is not for herself, but for her daughter. The daughter is described as “being tormented by a demon.” The mother believes that Jesus can heal those with such conditions. His reputation as a healer has traveled outside Jewish circles. Like so many mothers, she will do whatever she can to help her daughter. Even stepping outside social barriers.

Jesus sees into her heart and her spirit. He cannot resist such determination and spunk. So, he steps across the religious boundaries that separate him from her and frees the daughter from what assails her. This is a story about the spirit of this woman and the spirit of Jesus. At times, boundaries and divisions don’t matter. The love of God that is present in Jesus extends to all.

We often place boundaries on our generosity. This is quite natural. But maybe we set those boundaries too narrowly. We see some people as “us” and some as “them.” Some religious groups see themselves as “better” than others. There was a time when some Catholics believed that you had to be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved. Or to be holy. Or even to be saints. Appropriately, the Church declared that such a narrow understanding of God’s salvation was in error. There is no limit to God’s saving love.

Nor should we limit our faith and trust in God’s assistance to us. Or for anyone in our family. There are times when we might judge someone, even ourselves, unworthy of God’s attention and assistance. Or outsiders when it comes to God’s care. If we tend to set limits on God, we should think about that woman who didn’t let assumptions or even beliefs about God prevent her from approaching Jesus. She wanted help for her family. And despite what anyone might have assumed, she received it. So, don’t hold back from boldly requesting help from God. God is always listening to all of us.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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