08 August. Wednesday of Week Eighteen
(option: St Dominic)
Jer 31:1ff. Jeremiah again sings of the joyful return of the people to Samaria and Ephraim and foresees the reunion of these northern tribes with Jerusalem.
Matthew 15:21ff. When Jesus tries to discourage the Canaanite woman, she humbly persists and her faith is rewarded.
Persistence is Rewarded
The readings speak of hope, the quality of persevering despite bad reports and long delays, and God’s adjustment to our human responses. God put Israel through the paces of a strengthening process and developed the “desert spirituality” so beautifully expressed by Jeremiah: “I remember the devotion of your youth, how you loved me as a bride, following me in the desert, in a land unsown. Sacred to the Lord was Israel, the first fruits of his harvest” (Jer 2:2-3). These lines were composed by the young Jeremiah, probably about the time that he wrote the “Book of Consolation,” chaps. 30-31. The passage is powerfully used at the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The final phrase “virgin Israel” continues the nuptial theme, introduced into biblical tradition by the prophet Hosea. Applied to the exiled northern tribes as a young woman gloriously happy at the moment of her marriage, but it also envisages the miraculous transformation of the sinful adulterous woman Israel in her sins, into the “virgin daughter.” So hopeful is Jeremiah that he sees God’s achieving what is humanly impossible.
Jesus, too, is transformative. At first he would not even answer the Canaanite woman, when his disciples came up and begged entreat him to get rid of her. Then his first words to her sound very blunt, “My mission is only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” The world mission of the church was not yet clearly envisioned. Yet there are hints that he perceived a vision beyond the horizon of his words. Jesus’ non-verbal commentary indicates just as much right here. First, his silence may be interpreted as an unwillingness to reject her request. Then we find that he could not simply walk away from the woman but talked with her till she wore down his defenses. Finally, by his affirmative response to her plea, Jesus steps beyond his verbal statement into the future outreach of the church, which is so gloriously expressed in the theology of Paul.
First Reading: Jeremiah 31:1-7
At that time, says the Lord, I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. Thus says the Lord: “The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness; when Israel sought for rest, the Lord appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.
Again I will build you, and you shall be built, O virgin Israel! Again you shall take your tambourines, and go out in the dance of the merrymakers. Again you shall plant vineyards on the mountains of Samaria; the planters shall plant, and shall enjoy the fruit. For there shall be a day when sentinels will call in the hill country of Ephraim: “Come, let us go up to Zion, to the Lord our God.”
For thus says the Lord: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O Lord, your people, the remnant of Israel.”
Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.