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Reflections by Fr Anthony Crook RAN | Wednesday of the 18th Week in Ordinary Time

Tyre SidonLink to today’s readings: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/080421.cfm

Today’s Gospel Reading (Mt 15:21-28) which can at first glance seem a little harsh at times, and one of these readings we would rather Matthew left out of his gospel, is in fact one that should bring us great consolation and joy. It actually points to the reality that the message and saving action of Jesus is intended not only for the Jewish people, but also the Gentiles (that’s us!), and also to the power of prayer.

Firstly, in the geography of the Middle East at the time of Jesus, Tyre and Sidon

were considered pagan territories to the northwest of Jewish territory. In Matthew’s account of this event (Mark has his own account – Mk 7:24-30) it is not clear that Jesus has arrived in the area of Tyre and Sidon. The Greek word used is eis, which indicates that it was in the direction of this place that he was heading, not that he had arrived. So, if we are to picture this event, it would involve a pagan woman (a Gentile) coming over into Jewish territory to seek Jesus’ assistance.

At the time of Jesus, biblical and traditional belief was that salvation would come to the world through the People of Israel. So, we have in this narrative – almost in the form of moving pictures – that very belief coming to fulfillment: ‘The God of Israel is approached by Gentiles through Jesus the Jew’.[1] This circumstance helps us understand the verbal tussle that seems to take place between Jesus and the woman. The outcome is that faith, and not ethnicity, wins through: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mt 15:28). That is indeed happy news for us (as Gentiles).

Secondly, we see here the result of the woman’s firm and faithful petitioning of Jesus. This was not the equivalent of a ‘one off shot’, the equivalent of ‘rubbing a lucky rabbit’s foot’, but instead the result of a continued prayerful repêchage by the mother on behalf of her daughter.[2] That we can understand this as ‘prayerful’ is based on the posture taken by the mother before Jesus – ‘she came and knelt before him’ (Mt 15:25).

Let us take some joy then in appreciating the universal nature of the offer of salvation and divine relationship offered us in Jesus, and may today’s Gospel Reading also spur us on to pray faithfully and continually for all that we need.


[1] Harrington, D.J. (1991). Sacra Pagina: The Gospel of Matthew (D.J. Harrington, Ed.). The Liturgical Press, p. 238.

Graphic downloaded from http://www.bibletrack.org/notes/image/Tyre-Sidon.jpg on 29 July, 2021.

[2] You will have to forgive the use of the word ‘repêchage’, but it is the Olympics so I thought it worth a shot.