20th Sunday in Ordinary Time, August 16: One World, a Sunday Scriptures blog

A Canaanite woman is the main character in today’s Gospel from Matthew; Mark also has the story, but calls her a Phoenician. The Canaanites were historical enemies of the Hews, people who worshiped a popular false god named Baal. So this woman faced a hostile audience when she begs the Jewish rabbi, Jesus, to heal her daughter. Undeterred by Jesus’ initial silence, and then by his rebuke (it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs), she offers a rebuttal. “…Even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” There is another Gospel story that also shows Jesus’ ministry extending to non-Jews — the healing of the Roman centurion’s slave. These stories, and the discussions in Acts of the Apostles about circumcision and eating “unclean” food, show that the earliest Christians were striving to establish an inclusive and multicultural religion. So to be true to the authentic Christian tradition, that’s also what we must continue striving for today. We have not done too well historically; think crusades, colonization. In 2018, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a pastoral letter called Open Wide our Hearts: The Enduring Call to Love. It focuses on the sin of racism in the Church and society, and on the urgent need for all of us to come together to find solutions. Black Lives Matter highlights the bias in our culture against people of color, whether black or brown or Middle Eastern or Native American or… . Silence about these matters within families, parishes, friendship groups only helps racism persist. What does this Gospel ask me to do this week?

– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia

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