#Ambitious is the podcast for August 16, 2020. Jesus encounters an ambitious woman. See what happens next. Listen here FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew14 #Ambitious #Persistent #Canaan #Woman #Faith #Mission
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/16/2020 The 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 15:21-28.
I never really knew better. In fact, it just never occurred to me. As a child, my mother was always up before I was up and went to bed after I went to bed, but it never occurred to me that in our house there were only three bedrooms. In one bedroom were my three other brothers and myself in two bunk beds with a dresser in which we each had a drawer.
In the second bedroom across the hall were three beds for my oldest siblings, my three sisters. They were the oldest and bossiest. Then, next to my bedroom on the same side of the hallway were my two other sisters, the younger two sisters, although everyone in the family was and is older than me. That was it for bedrooms. There was no room in my home growing up that was my “mom’s room” until we moved to the North side of town when I was 8 and my four older sisters moved out.
For the first eight years of my life, my mother did not have a bedroom. She slept on the couch. She kept her clothes in a closet that was in a storage room behind our bathroom upstairs. I can never remember a time when I was sick that my mother didn’t make sure I was cared for. I never remember a time when she wasn’t persistent in breaking down barriers to put food on the table.
She was one of the first women to get her real estate license in my county. She brought me along with her when she went to Chamber of Commerce meetings where a woman, let alone a single woman with a child, was not welcomed then. I remember her sitting on the couch in our Northside South Bend home crying one day. I was about 12 and I asked her what was wrong. She said, “All I ever wanted to do was be a mom and a wife.”
I was raised by a persistent, ambitious, clever, successful mother who would do whatever she needed to do to make sure her children got what they needed. She would not let the niceties get in the way. She was tough, persistent, and ambitious. I did not know any other way, but to have a woman in my life who was strong, persistent, ambitious, and tough as nails. This is the same woman who told me, “Every night I would lie on that couch and just tell the Lord that he just had to see me through another day.”
I think this is why I love the “Canaanite Woman” in this story from our Gospel today. She reminds me of my mom. Her daughter is possessed by a demon. So, from her couch in her little home over run by children, she walks through her Gentile city to seek out the famous Jewish Rabbi who down the road at Gennesaret was healing people and driving out demons in people brought to him. Word had travelled. So, as long as the man who showed all the signs of being the Jewish Messiah was in the neighborhood, this is where she was going to go.
She shouldn’t have because it was taboo for a Jewish man to speak to a woman. It was taboo for a Jewish man to speak to a Gentile. She was both: a woman and a Gentile. So, she had absolutely no standing to speak to Jesus. Yet, here she is. She is causing such a ruckuss that the apostles are embarrassed. While everyone else around her is wondering who this guy is, she says it out loud: “Lord, Son of David”. Both of these are Messianic titles. The one who is the outcast can see the situation clearly and gets it. So, while the guys around Jesus are saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us”. Jesus ignores her and states the etiquette, “I was sent only for the lost sheep of Israel.”
She just keeps going. She breaks through them. She throws herself down before Jesus kneeling. In an act of humiliation, she shows she doesn’t care how humiliating it is playing the fool, because her goal is to help her child. Think of it, she is a shouting, kneeling, loud, persistent, ambitious, clever, gentile woman making the scene of scenes. She has no standing, no rights, nothing, and she doesn’t care. She says the same thing that Peter just said last week when he sunk, “Lord, help me.”
To that, Jesus then insults her by stating the common belief that a Jew ought not have anything to do with unclean Gentiles. Even Matthew uses a slur that is no longer used to describe this Gentile woman. The people of Palestine hadn’t been called “Canaanites” since the time Joshua and Caleb spied out the Promised Land of Canaan before the Lord first delivered it into their hands. See the Book of Joshua. So, Jesus continues the trend by basically saying that Gentiles are dogs and she is one of them.
I do not know about you, but it might be hard to get up off the floor from my knees after that one. Not only has she violated all conventions, been brazen enough to call Jesus the Messiah when the Jews themselves are playing the “Is he?” or “Isn’t he?” game, which will surely bring her scorn when this is all done, she now has to bear the ignominy of being called a “dog” by the Savior of the Universe. She is not deserving of the meal set before the children because she is a “dog.” All due respect to my favorite pooch.
Yet, we know our girl. We know she is on a mission to heal her baby. We find out here that she is ambitious, persistent, plus smart, clever, and quick. “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.” In this statement, is humility, but also a declaration. She entered the scene by saying that Jesus was the Messiah by using the term, “Son of David.” Now, she is saying that he is her master and that she will take even the crumbs from his table, because he is God. As far as she is concerned, the scraps from the Messiah’s table are good enough for the Gentiles, good enough for her, good enough to exorcise her daughter of the demon which possesses her. “Lord, you just have to see me through another day.”
As always, impressed by her faith and moved with compassion by this honest woman of faith who did not fit any of the norms of the day, Jesus grants her request and heals her daughter. So, it is not status by birth, nor status by education, nor status by reputation, nor status by social class that impresses God. It is the status of the heart. Don’t get me wrong, the Lord wants us to be faithful to our birthright as children of God. He wants us to be educated, maintain a good reputation, and use our social class for his honor, for sure. Yet, without a proper disposition of the heart, we will not be able to see that he is the Messiah, the Living God, the King of kings, Lord of lords, who heals us and helps us make it through another day.
My brothers and sisters, the Canaanite woman is ambitious, persistent, smart, clever, humble, incisive and faithful. It is not wrong to be ambitious. We need Christians to be ambitious in carrying out the mission of the Lord. It is not wrong to be persistent. We need people to persistently offer a relationship with Jesus Christ to others in ways they don’t even recognize. It is not bad to be educated. We need experts to understand in depth a small part in the vast amount of discovery of God’s creation. Yet, these good things can be used for the wrong if they are not connected to faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
We must always be rooted in the Lord and motivated by the Holy Spirit for our ambition and persistence. We need ambitious and persistent men and women to carry out the mission of the Church, to have others exorcised of their demons. The Canaanite woman, that ambitious, persistent, loud, clever, and faithful person, is an example to us. [As we prepare to make our Stewardship Promise at the On-line Ministry Fair on August 30, we should keep in mind the ambition and persistence it takes to read to make time to pray daily, serve in a ministry of the church, to read Scripture daily, to tithe, and to set aside weekly attendance at Mass and accepting the recommendation for monthly Reconciliation.] Being a follower of Jesus demands ambition and persistence.
On a side note, but not wholly unrelated, the church is never in short supply of strong women. In my experience of the Church, it is always lagging behind in strong men. I can call women up all day long and they will say yes to the work of the mission of the Church. I can call men all day long and they will say, “hmmm, I don’t know, Father.” [I have not been at Christ the King enough to know if this is true here, but] it has been my experience over 35 years in ministry. The truth of the matter is that the Canaanite Woman is an example to all of us.
We are Christians, there is no Jew, nor Greek; no slave, nor free; no man, nor woman, anymore. So, a Canaanite Woman, the Ambitious Persistent Woman, is an example for all of us. She shows that the Lord Jesus wants us to be ambitious and persistent in our work to drive out demons, tend the poor, heal the sick, shelter the homeless, visit those in prison, and feed the hungry. She also shows us that we need to be ambitious and persistent in our proclamation that Jesus is the Messiah, the “Son of David”, in kneeling before him in worship, singing his praises, preaching his Word, celebrating his Eucharist, anointing, absolving of sins, all of it. We are to be ambitious and persistent people rooted in our relationship with Jesus Christ the King, the ruler and healer of all. Are you with her? Are you with the Canaanite woman? Are you with our sister? If so, then make your plan, pray [every day], read [the Scriptures every day], tithe, attend [Mass and Reconciliation], and serve [in a ministry of the church].
May God bless the preaching of this Gospel in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2020.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.