Sunday of the year (20th
A reading from the
holy Gospel according to Matthew
Genenesaret and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. Then
out came a Canaanite woman from that
started shouting, ‘Sir, Son of David, take pity on me.
My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ But he answered
her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. ‘Give
her what she wants,’ they said ‘because she is
shouting after us.’ He said in reply, ‘I was sent
only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel’. But the
woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. ‘Lord,’ she
said ‘help me.’ He replied, ‘It is not fair
to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs’.
She retorted, ‘Ah yes, sir; but even house-dogs can eat
the scraps that fall from their master’s table’.
Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, you have great faith.
Let your wish be granted.’ And from that moment her daughter
was well again.
BUILD BRIDGES, NOT WALLS
a tale told by Oscar Wilde, a giant was distressed by the
fact that a group of children had taken to playing in his
garden – a large and flowery place carpeted with plush
green grass. But the giant did not appreciate their presence.
So, in a tale that is very relevant in today’s world,
the giant built a high wall around his garden and put up
a sign that read ‘Trespassers will be prosecuted’.
As time passed, and as the seasons changed, it was always
winter in the giant’s garden, birds didn’t sing
there anymore, no leaves came on the trees, only the north
wind blew. The only thing the wall accomplished was to keep
out every source of joy and assure the giant of his solitary
sadness. To learn the surprising end to the story google ‘The
Selfish Giant’ by Oscar Wilde. I mention this brief
introduction because it sets a good backdrop against which
to consider today’s readings which involve examples
of racial and religious discrimination.
Take the first reading from Isaiah for instance,
the Hebrews have finally returned from exile in Babylon only
to find Gentiles
(non-Jews) living in their beloved homeland. These ‘foreigners’ have
been resettled in Palestine during the years of exile, resulting
in a racially and religiously mixed culture. Isaiah imagines the
possibility of Gentile sacrifices being acceptable to the God
of Israel. In the letter to the Romans, Paul is troubled over
the Jews’ rejection of Jesus as he knows that the promised
Messiah has come for Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul grieves that
the realisation of God’s inclusive love is being thwarted
by his own people.
Then in today’s Gospel (Matt 15: 21-28) Jesus has travelled
beyond the boundaries of Jewish life into a Gentile area. A Gentile
woman comes to him, calling him ‘Son of David’ and
pleading with him to help her daughter. Jesus’ disciples
encourage him to turn her away, but after demonstrating the typical
Jewish prejudice against Gentiles, he commends her faith and heals
Here are three examples of the sad reality of
discrimination. The fact is that we have never fully accepted
love – from childhood we retain our need to be Number One.
Sibling rivalry is a classic example of the need to be, not only
loved, but exclusively loved. As adults we do not lose these feelings
entirely and unfortunately we often transfer this infantile insecurity
to our relationship with God. To discover God’s unconditional
love is wonderful, but to experience God’s mercy is transforming.
We never entirely lose our desire to be somehow closer to God,
or closer to the truth, than someone else. We may therefore think
of people of other religions, or, with unusual values, as living
outside God’s love and care.
According to biblical witness, God sees a world
without religious conflicts, without racial prejudice, without
hatred and discrimination.
The most sublime hope imaginable and the recurring hope of the
scriptures, is that God’s children and all peoples, will
one day live in perfect harmony and true peace. Jews and Gentiles
will worship God together, Christians and Jews will gather around
the throne of God, human boundaries, all walls and fences will
be no more.
Archdeacon of Glendalough