At that time, says the LORD,
I will be the God of all the tribes of Israel,
and they shall be my people.
Thus says the LORD:
The people that escaped the sword
have found favor in the desert.
As Israel comes forward to be given his rest,
the LORD appears to him from afar:
With age-old love I have loved you;
so I have kept my mercy toward you.
Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt,
O virgin Israel;
Carrying your festive tambourines,
you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.
Again you shall plant vineyards
on the mountains of Samaria;
those who plant them shall enjoy the fruits.
Yes, a day will come when the watchmen
will call out on Mount Ephraim:
“Rise up, let us go to Zion,
to the LORD, our God.”
For thus says the LORD:
Shout with joy for Jacob,
exult at the head of the nations;
proclaim your praise and say:
The LORD has delivered his people,
the remnant of Israel.
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 he did not say a word in answer to her.
His 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 him 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 her daughter was healed from that hour.
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s mercy and compassion
We can partly understand God’s mercy by learning the ways which human beings treat each other. When one person is violated, the maximum which one can forgive his opponent is three times. When people had a prejudice with a person, a group or a nation, he doesn’t want to see, to talk or to have anything in common with his opponent. If God also treats people like that, how many people can be survived in this world! God is ready to forgive all people’s sins with one condition that they repent. He gives grace to both believers and unbelievers.
Today readings want to highlight God’s mercy and compassion. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah declared that even though the Israelites often offensed God, He is still waiting and ready to forgive them if they repent. He shall re-establish His relationship with them and recover their rights for them as in the beginning. In the Gospel, a Gentile woman from Phoenicia came and asked Jesus to heal her daughter from the devil’s possession. After seriously tested her faith and recognized her faith, Jesus healed her daughter.
1/ Reading I: God’s mercy remains for ever.
1.1/ The reason for the Israelites’ exile: God punished the Israelites because they refused to listen to Him. Some of the punishments are: the temple was completely destroyed; all precious things in the temple were taken away and the king and most people were on exile in Babylon. In today report, Jeremiah gave them a hope: God punishes and then has mercy; after a purified period in Babylon, God shall give the remnant a chance to go back to Jerusalem and the temple shall be rebuilt. They shall be led by God on the way to the place of rest.
1.2/ God’s love for the Israelites: Not like human way, they can’t stand the unfaithful, especially from the one who did it many times; God’s mercy isn’t destroyed by the Israel’s repeated sins and unfaithfulness. The reason of God’s patience is given by the prophet Ezekiel, “But when a wicked man turns away from wickedness and does what is right and just, because of this he shall live” (Eze 33:19). God wants to save people, not to see people to die.
The prophet Jeremiah also repeated this mercy, “With age-old love I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt, O virgin Israel; carrying your festive tambourines, you shall go forth dancing with the merrymakers.”
The Israelites shall recognize God’s generous love through what God recovers for them. They shall come back to the former Promise Land, full of milk and honey; they shall unify their nation, not to be divided as of old; they shall rebuild the temple and have the joyous feasts back when they come up to Jerusalem temple; they shall be proud with the surrounding nations because the Lord saves His people, the remnant of Israel.
2/ Gospel: The solid faith of the Canaanite woman.
In three years of his active ministry, Jesus rarely went out of the Israel’s territory. All the Gospel reported only one time the event in which Jesus went to Tyre and Sidon, two very prosperous cites of the Ancient Near East which lie on the coast of the Mediterarenean Sea.
2.1/ The woman loved her daughter: She was hurt when she saw her possessed by the devil. Her immense love was the motivation for her to overcome all obstacles to come to Jesus and to cry out to him: “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
2.2/ The woman firmly believed in Jesus: Many obstacles which she must overcome; but she overcame all because she believed that only Jesus can heal her daughter.
(1) The obstacle of being ignored by Jesus: She probably begged Jesus to heal her daughter many times; but Jesus ignored her. She overcame the obstacle of being ignored.
(2) The obstacle of prejudice: Jesus and his disciples are Jews while she is from Phoenicia, a Canaanite region. According to the historian Josephus, the Canaanites are the Jews’ enemies; they want to do nothing with each other. When urged by his disciples to listen to her, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” Jesus answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The woman overcame the obstacle of prejudice.
(3) The obstacle of heavy testing: Jesus seriously tested her faith when he said to her: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” How many people have courage to stay when someone says these words to them! But the woman had courage not only to stay but also to humbly express her faith, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Faith is needed to be tested as gold is tried by faith to find out which one is the true gold. Many commentators tried to soften Jesus’ words by concentrating on the word “dog” and explained that it is the word for puppies or young dogs. They must accept the fact that faith must be tested by many different ways, either by attacking one’s dignity, possession or even life. The woman overcame the heavy testing of her dignity.
2.3/ Jesus had mercy on her and healed her daughter: After tested her faith, Jesus fathomed her mind. He saw a mother’s immense love for her sicked daughter and an unshakable faith over all obstacles; therefore, Jesus said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We are created according to God’s image and likeness; mercy and compassion make us like God more than any other quality. We must have mercy for others.
– God is merciful. He has compassion on those who have compassion for others, and has no mercy on those who have no mercy for others. Can we beg for God’s mercy while we refuse to have mercy for others?
– Mercy has no boundary and time, it isn’t confined in the familial circle, nor limited by how many times. Whenever there is a request, we must try our best to have mercy.
– We are living in a society which doesn’t emphasize on mercy; but on getting even, such as: divorce, separation, war, etc. What do we think about God’s mercy in today’s readings?