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¡Todos, Todos, Todos!

Fr Rich AndreFr. Rich Andre, CSP
August 18, 2023

Our gospel passage for August 19-20 is one of the most challenging passages in Matthew. Some people say that the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-28 had to convince Jesus to expand God’s mercy. Really? Why would this be the one instance of the adult Jesus, God’s Anointed One, the Christ, making a mistake until someone else corrects him?

Let’s look to chapters 13 and 14 of Matthew for some help in interpreting this passage. In chapter 13, Jesus said that the reign of God was like seed sown indiscriminately all over the land, but some seed fell on good soil and produced 30, 60, or 100-fold. Then, in chapter 14, when the disciples wanted to dismiss a huge crowd of 20,000 people, Jesus said, “feed them yourselves.” The disciples apparently didn’t remember Jesus’ teaching about the good soil, so he showed them that it was possible to feed the crowd with five loaves and two fish.

In chapter 13, Jesus said that the reign of God was like a mustard seed that grew into a mighty tree. Then, in chapter 14, Peter took several steps on the pitching surface of the stormy sea, and when he began to sink, he sank at a rate much slower than what we would expect from the force of gravity.

Today’s passage is another example of how we are to bring forth the reign of God. In chapter 13, Jesus said it was like farmhands who should not try to separate the weeds from the wheat until the harvest. And yet, the disciples – perhaps because they didn’t want to be bothered with strangers while on a beach vacation? – decided right then and there that the Canaanite woman was a weed. Jesus said nothing; the disciples begged Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them.

When Jesus says that he came to save the lost sheep of Israel and that it’s not right to take food from children, I think he’s talking to the disciples, testing them. Jesus had been spoon-feeding them about the expansiveness of God’s mercy, but they fail to absorb even a morsel. The Canaanite woman understands this expansiveness. Looking at the silent, uncomprehending disciples, she points out that her request takes nothing from the disciples – she is taking the food that they have chosen not to eat. And Jesus, who called Peter “you of little faith,” declares, “O woman, great is your faith!”

 It’s notable that the Church has paired this gospel with other readings that deal with the issue of race. In Isaiah 56:1, 6-7, God announces that justice is about to break through, and when it does, all foreigners will be welcome to worship on the LORD’s mountain. Paul concludes that Jews who reject the gospel are still part of God’s plan. Therefore, this combination seems to emphasize that the gospel should be interpreted in the same open and inclusive Spirit. Or, as Pope Francis said so passionately earlier this month at World Youth Day in Portugal:

There is room for everyone in the Church and, whenever there is not, then, please, we must make room, including for those who make mistakes, who fall or struggle…. Do not go about hurling accusations – telling people “this is a sin” or “this is not a sin.” Let everyone come…. Please, do not turn the Church into a customs house: there the righteous, peoples whose lives are in order, those properly married, can enter, while everyone else remain outside. No. That is not the Church. Righteous and sinners, good and bad: everyone, everyone, everyone!

Francis then invited the crowd to repeat after him in their native language, “Everyone, everyone, everyone!” (“¡Todos, todos, todos!”)