20th Sunday of the Year (A) 2017

The Four Gospels seem to differ slightly in their understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was.

You will remember the questions Jesus asked his Apostles; ‘Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”

The answer to this question was hotly debated in the early church. It was only finally settled in 325 ad. at the Council of Nicaea where the Nicene Creed was produced, (which you all have on your mass cards.)

A side issue to this central question was how much did Jesus of Nazareth know and understand about himself and when did he know and understand it.

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) seem to give us good grounds for thinking that Jesus grew in understanding of who he was and what his mission was as he grew physically and mentally – just like you and I.

On the other hand the Gospel of John seems to indicate that from the very beginning of his life Jesus of Nazareth fully understood who he was and what his mission was and exactly how it would unfold.

Today’s Gospel reading is a case in point.

If you hold that Jesus knew and understood everything from the very beginning, that he was sent to bring salvation to all mankind irrespective of ethnicity, then why refuse to help the Canaanite woman because she was not a Jew?

On the other hand if you hold that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding through out his life, as we read in Luke “And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favour before God and man,” then we can see that this was what was happening in today’s reading. We see Jesus beginning to understand that God’s promises were not just for the Chosen People-the Jews-but for all peoples, Jews and Gentiles.

Now, the interplay between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in todays Gospel reading makes sense. It shows his growing understanding that faith is not the province of the Jews only but is found in, and belongs to, all peoples.

This question of the admission or exclusion of the Gentile races was a major problem for the first century of the Church’s existence. Peter and Paul had a big confrontation on the question which was the subject of the first general council of the Church.

It is interesting that it is the pleading of a suffering mother fearful for the welfare of her child and her obvious faith in God, that brings Jesus to his senses and a fuller understanding of his mission.

Last Tuesday was the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady (Mary) into heaven.

Devotion to Mary is found from the earliest days of the church. I can only guess at the distress and grief of a mother witnessing the torture and slow execution of her child. I can only guess at the distress and grief of a mother receiving the dead body of her child in her arms and having to bury it far from home. No wonder we should, and do, cry out to Mary in our distress and grief.