Isaiah 56: 1,6-7 – Romans 11: 13-15 – Matthew 15: 21-28
For the most part, I suspect, many of us do not like things that are different or strange or foreign. We prefer to stay with what is safe and comfortable, to stay in our own cocoons. Thus, the incident that was recorded in the gospel of Saint Matthew, that was read today may have been strange to those who heard it. The tradition is that St. Matthew addressed his gospel account to those who were of Jewish background. What Matthew wrote has an element of an understanding that could be identified with the words of Isaiah which we also heard. Isaiah recognized that there would be others, not of the Covenant tradition, who would acknowledge the God of the Covenant and were to be accepted.
In this account, however, we can easily understand the reaction of the Apostles, and of Jesus. The Apostles wanted to send this annoying and foreign woman away. Jesus, initially points out that his ministry was directed to the Chosen People of that Covenant with God. It is just because of those reaction, I believe, that Matthew included this incident. It not only called upon his listeners to open up their hearts and minds, it also calls upon us, who hear it today, to open up, as well, our minds, our hearts, our own way of thinking.
In a rather humorous manner, this foreign woman persists in her request. What this points out is that more must be considered than the superficial elements of her difference, her being foreign. The initial reaction of Jesus is overcome by the faith and the trust that she placed in Jesus and what he would be able to do for her. It was not what the woman was on the surface that was important, but who she was in her belief and her confidence in Jesus.
How we can experience the revelation of God’s presence and action in our lives can often be found in unusual and unexpected circumstances. It can be found even in what might be considered different, uncomfortable, or even foreign. It is not just a matter of what we might hear or what we might say. It is how we respond that is significant. It is not just taking the love and presence of God for granted in situations or circumstances that are familiar and comfortable. It is how we react to what is challenging or difficult that is important.
As I mentioned earlier, Isaiah proclaimed that foreigners, those who did not benefit like the chosen People, can be a source who teach, a source by which we can learn how to know the goodness of God. Paul, too, recognized what he had gained in his life. Although he was saddened by the rejection of Jesus by his own people of the Jewish tradition, he realized that it opened the door for him to preach the Good News, the Gospel, to the non-Jews, the Gentiles he was addressing.
Every day and each day, every one of us, no matters our age or experience today, is offered the opportunity, some of which may not be comfortable or familiar, to experience the active and loving presence of our God. Rather than lament what was and is no longer, or what could have been, rather than viewing in a negative way what might be difficult or foreign, we need to realize the challenge, the opportunity that each day, each experience, each person, offers to us. In what might seem to be a simple incident in the day of the life of Jesus, that Saint Matthew deemed important enough to include in what he wrote, we are called to explore every opportunity to experience, to know and to appreciate the richness and wonder of our good and gracious God.