Resource Material for this Sunday
Ideal for catechetical and liturgical dramatization of today's gospel.
August 18 - 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
†††† Two days later, we returned to Israel, our country, passing through the road of the Phoenicians. We hardly felt that we were crossing the frontier because the land had the same color, the trees bore the same leaves and the birds, sang the same tune every≠where.
†††† The Roman province of Syria was a foreign territory where a great number of Israelites used to live, and therefore, there was much contact between Syria and Palestine. More so, with the northern province of Palestine, Galilee, where Syriaís frontiers were located. Within the territory of Syria were two important cities of the Phoenicians, Tyre and Sidon. The Phoenicians were great navigators and merchants of the ancient world. The ruins of Tyre and Sidon presently correspond to the territory of Lebanon, in the north of Israel.
†††† Tyre was an important center during the time of the gospels and lasted for centuries. Its two ports were actively engaged in commercial activities with other Mediterranean countries, as well as industries such as metals, textiles, dyes (specially purple) and glass. A flourishing Israelite colony was established there. Since the Jews were well known for their business acumen, they succeeded rapidly in this undertaking. But since they were a nationalistic people Ė racist at times Ė they never mingled with the inhabitants of Tyre. In the gospel, they were known as Syrophoenicians or Canaanites.
†††† The gospels tell us that only on this one occasion did Jesus leave for a foreign country. Only with this Canaanite woman and with that Roman Centurion who had an ailing servant did Jesus show a sign of the Kingdom of God by healing non-Israelites. This act of Jesus certainly did not transcend geographical frontiers of Israel. He hardly had time to do it. But with his message, his words, Jesus absolutely rejected the kind of nationalism embraced by his compatriots. This was a novelty and a scandal for them at the same time. The group of Pharisees, the Essene monks and the people in general discriminated against foreigners in the much-awaited Kingdom of God. It was their belief that God would do likewise. Jesus completely destroyed this deeply-rooted nationalistic tradition.
†††† Even in our time, there are nations today which feel a certain superiority over others and therefore feel they have a right to rule over them. There are also races who think they are more intelligent and more capable than the rest. In the name of this supposed superiority, they colonize, dictate laws, discriminate, persecute and kill. These ill-fated ideologies led, in Latin America, to massacres of indigenous inhabitants with extremely varied cultures, to the creation of encomiendas, as well as imposition of tribute. Eventually, it led to the enslavement of men and women of African origin, violently uprooted from their countries. The indigenous part of Latin America (more than 15% of the population) is composed of survivors of that historical crime. The 30 million blacks presently living in these countries are children and grandchildren of slaves brought to the continent like beasts, by white men who thought it was their right and even obligation, to enslave them. In doing so, they invoked the name of God, as they continue to do today, in order to justify racism and discrimination of any type.
†††††††† Science has proven the absolute fallacy of the racistís mind affirming that some races are superior to others. Biologically speaking, each human group has distinctive physical and psychic characteristics, not necessarily better nor worse than those of the rest, nor more valuable than others. Above all, historically speaking, races and countries have had unequal opportunities in developing their own set of values and expressing them. On the level of racism, it is easy to discover the plan followed by the oppressors and the oppressed. What makes it more horrible is the fact that these oppressors are mostly nations with a long history of Christianity. The whole gospel rejects nationalism and racism. Christianity in its original form combats any form of discrimination: There is no longer a Jew, nor a pagan, nor a slave, nor a free man, nor a man, nor a woman.... (Gal 3:28). Neither will there be a black nor a white, an Indian nor a Latin, Mulato nor Mestizo.... We are all the same in the eyes of God. We are all Godís children. Jesus makes use of irony with the Canaanite woman. He speaks to her, ďone must not throw bread to the dogs.Ē He is doing it to highlight Salathielís lack of compassion and his glaring nationalistic arrogance. ďDogĒ is a word of insult in Aramaic as well as in Arabic language. The dog is considered a despicable and impure animal, for being a stray and for eating rotten and unclean meat.
†††† As a Christian one cannot talk about frontiers separating all peoples. A wrong concept of nationalism is no less than a collective expression of egoism or false pride. While respecting the culture of each nation, their history and peculiarities, the Christian must be (as has always been said) a ďcitizen of the world,Ē an ďinternationalist,Ē sensitive to the pains and joys of people of every country, who is in solidarity with the struggles and just gains of all nations. In the world we live in, where the fate of a nation can no longer be detached from that of her neighbors for better or for worse, this is not only an ideal theology but historical evidence. In this episode, the miracle of Jesus directed toward the daughter of a foreign woman, is a sign that before God there are no frontiers nor races. God gathers people from the four corners of the earth, and the only sign that will distinguish the citizens of that nation are freedom, life and justice chosen by those who comprise it.
(Mt 15:21-28; Mk 7:24-30)
Taken from the book: A Certain Jesus, Vol. 2
This book offers a new approach to appreciating the life of Jesus. The first part of the Chapter is in dialogue form in an up-to-date conversational language. This makes the reader realize that Jesus was once a very ordinary guy, a typical man in his time. The last part of each chapter contains an explanation of the biblical references, thus giving one the perspective for reflection.