The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A - 17th August 2014

Last week we heard the prayer of Peter: “Lord, save me”, when he was sinking under the waves as he tried to walk on the water. Today we hear a very similar prayer from the Canaanite woman whose daughter is experiencing frightening trauma.
Something important is happening here. Keep in mind that the community for whom Matthew was writing was composed of people who had been Jewish before they were Christians. They still carry with them much of the mentality that they had before. A very important part of jewishness is the sense of belonging to the chosen people; and a very important part of belonging to the chosen people is the realisation that not everybody belongs to that people – everyone else, in fact, is excluded because they are not part of that chosen people.
This is an attitude that Matthew challenges head on by recounting this episode from the life of Jesus. He puts essentially the same prayer on the lips of Peter as he puts on the lips of the pagan woman. This is something that, in all likelihood, Matthew’s community would have found to be shocking. But Matthew doesn’t do this to be shocking, he does it because it is so central to the whole message of Jesus that it cannot be left out. Jesus has come to announce the Kingdom to the Jews; but not only to the Jews. The message that Jesus proclaims – that God loves us unconditionally – is not one that is restricted to any group.
This is something that is reinforced over and over again in Matthew’s gospel. Right from his account of the birth of Jesus where he tells us of the Wise Men, foreigners from the East, who came to worship the new-born baby; the fact that the Messiah goes to live in Egypt; the Centurion who has the sick servant and is shown to be a person of faith. In fact, throughout Matthew’s gospel in particular, we are told over and over again that in the Kingdom of God the distinction that will matter is not between pagan and Jew; not between male and female; but between person of faith and person who does not believe. 
Nobody is automatically excluded from the kingdom; and nor is anybody automatically included. Faith is the characteristic of all those who belong in the kingdom, the same faith that bears fruit in works of justice, love and forgiveness.
Today’s gospel reading presents us with a sort of wake-up call. It calls us and tells us not to be complacent, not to take the message of Jesus for granted. If we are people of faith then we are sent out to bear the fruits that are associated with those who believe. The call to renew our faith is the call to renew our commitment to the works of justice, love, and forgiveness.

Article posted on 16th of August 2014

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