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Engaging the Word: The Twentieth week of Ordinary Time

An important theme in today’s readings is the universal call of Christianity. Many religions in the ancient world were national religions, but Jesus preached a different message. Jesus is the one savior of all mankind, so he taught that the Church would be open to peoples of all nations, races, and ethnicities. It is faith, not blood, that makes someone a Christian.

The woman who approaches Jesus for help in today’s Gospel is a Canaanite, a foreigner to the Jews. At first, Jesus seems to reject her harshly. But the woman persists with amazing humility, and Jesus soon responds with words of praise, “O woman, great is your faith!” This interaction be-tween Jesus and the Canaanite woman illustrates a common occurrence in the spiritual life: a time of testing and difficulty can lead to a deepening of faith. Jesus’ seemingly harsh words allow the Canaanite woman to show the true depth of her faith, something that amazes even Jesus. Many of the saints report having experienced a “dark night of the soul” when God seems to have left them; how-ever, by staying faithful through such a period of emptiness they reached an intimacy with God deeper than anything they’d experienced before. If at times God seems to be ignoring us, perhaps instead he is calling us to an even deeper faith.

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