One of the best ways to enrich your spiritual life is to reflect on the Gospel.
A great way of doing this is using the technique of Lectio Divina, a powerful method that we explain here. The following is a Gospel reading with a reflection that is especially aimed at youth.
This week, Fr. Piccolo reflects on Matthew 15:21-28.
We hope that it helps you in your personal prayer and that it serves as a resource that you can share with your apostolate.
Catholic Bible Study: Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 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.”
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
The Gospel of the Lord
“In the end, there is no idea that doesn’t end up becoming a habit.” – Camus
Summer is often a time of fortuitous encounters, new friendships and seaside romances. A group of friends may start the summer together but it becomes difficult to keep those relationships fixed and unaltered. The appearance of a stranger, of someone unknown, even of a passing tourist forces friends to reexamine the dynamics at play in the group.
Perhaps it’s because of this uncertainty and the difficulty of having to reinterpret our roles that we’ve put so much effort into trying to stabilize our social situation throughout the year. We’re condemned to the annoying and repetitive task until everything is clear again. We’d much rather save our energy than make room for someone new in our lives that could upset the balance and cause a crisis.
Beyond simplistic solutions and instinctive rejection, the question of the stranger that comes into our world is much more complicated and sheds light on a profound human struggle: welcoming the other when they aren’t one of our own. The other is always unwanted stranger in our everyday world. We instinctively tend towards preserving and defending ourselves from them rather than allowing them into our world and concerns.
This tendency towards closure was probably present among the first disciples as well. Even the first Christian community sought to establish clear criteria for who belonged to the group and who was outside it. But it seems that Jesus wants us to go through the trouble of reexamining this attitude continuously. He takes the initiative himself to go out to the peripheries, far from the center, out where things tend to be progressively less clear and sure. The further you get from the center, the less black and white things become.
While Jesus goes out to the limits, the disciples try to set them; that is, they try to establish who should be benefiting from Christ’s presence and who should be deprived of it.
In order to help the disciples reflect on the complexity of reality and the difficulty of reaching clear judgments, Jesus puts before them a complex situation in which one’s humanity comes into play before one’s religion. Jesus involves himself in the life of a mother who is in despair over her daughter’s illness. Mother and daughter, two interchangeable figures, one is and the other will be, for the daughter is the future of this mother. This woman probably sees no more future for herself, for her future has fallen ill.
Before this profoundly human situation, God is silent. How many times have we felt this silence? How many times have we hoped for a word from the Lord? How many times have literature and film spoken to us about this dramatic silence?
And yet this text shows us that many times God’s silence is not what it seems. Within his silence, Jesus, who at first does not direct a single word to this woman, gives the disciples reason to question themselves. His silence is first and foremost for them, so that they may ask themselves: who can set the limits? Are you sure of the clarity and efficacy of your ideas?
But this silence is also for the woman. Jesus invites her to bring her deepest desires into the light and helps her become aware of her desire to be truly healed. Sometimes we cling to our afflictions and we use them to manipulate others into loving us. Now this woman knows that she can be loved beyond her afflictions; she knows that she can entrust her future to Jesus.
Contrary to Jesus, the disciples would like an easy solution, not for love of the person, but to avoid embarrassment. Jesus invites them rather to reflect and to walk the path of awareness – a path that all should walk. On love, we must discern, says Ignatius of Loyola. Often our solutions are not dictated by charity but by the desire to shake off situations that would put us in crisis. The events of immigration invite us to a deeper reflection, not merely to a good-intentioned instinctiveness that puts our conscience to rest temporarily.
The first response of Jesus is sarcastic and brings to light the thoughts of the disciples. Jesus reveals what the disciples are thinking, as if in cartoon bubble: “you must first think of the children of Israel, then the others.”
Jesus corrects this idea. Even if you, disciples, think in this way, I invite you to revise the limits of your hearts and to try not to put up walls to avoid turning your world upside down with all its paradoxes.
In fact, in the end, this Canaanite woman is integrated into the group of the disciples. She who was excluded by men is integrated by God. Often that which we reject is restored to us by life.
This woman had gone to Jesus to ask for the healing of her daughter; now she realizes that she herself has been the first to receive healing. The Lord has given her back the possibility of a future. She believes that the Lord can open the limits of her heart – humankind, perhaps not yet.
Questions for Reflection
- How do you react when someone new joins your group?
- How do you react when it seems that God is silent?