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home : our faith : the word August 20, 2017

Aug. 20 - A Canaanite woman interrupts Jesus' vacation

The Word
By Father Garry Koch

Many of us are staring at the last weeks of summer vacation. We all need to take a break from the familiar and routine in our lives. While we know that Jesus often went to the mountains to pray we never quite think of him and the disciples relaxing. Did Jesus ever take a vacation?

This week’s Gospel seems to give us one suggestion that he did. Jesus and the disciples are in the district of Tyre and Sidon in modern day Lebanon. He has left the Jewish territory and is in this ancient port region along the Mediterranean Sea. This is the only time in the Gospels when we hear of Jesus being along the waters of the Mediterranean. As he is at dinner with his disciples and, presumably a host and other invitees, we can picture Jesus on a short holiday.

Wouldn’t you know it – as luck would have it – a local woman hears that Jesus is in town and interrupts the meal and pleads with Jesus to heal her afflicted daughter? The peace and calm of the moment is ruined by this woman.

Jesus, rather uncharacteristically, dismisses her. He doesn’t seem to want to be bothered with her, but he is willing to engage her. Typically (especially in Matthew’s Gospel) Jesus did not leave the confines of ancient Israel nor did he often interact with gentiles.

We must give this woman much credit. She not only recognized Jesus for who he was, but was also very persistent in her conversation with him. To some extent this is extremely bold and must have been shocking to his disciples and his host. Not only did she barge in on them, she seems disrespectful.

After listening to her plea Jesus sends her ways with the assurance that her daughter has been healed.

We must all often find ourselves in this kind of situation. We are relaxing, perhaps away from home on vacation, and the duties or obligations of faith interrupt us.

Do you find it difficult to go to Mass when on vacation when either your hosts or traveling companions choose not to? Do you find it difficult to engage in conversation on difficult social and political issues because it might highlight the conflict between the teaching of the Church and the conventional wisdom of the world? Do you ever feel that the life of faith just seems to intrude on your real life?

As a college seminarian the dean used to remind us before vacation times that: “there is no vacation from your vocation.” This pithy remark is true for each of us. We might take a break from our “real life” and get out of town for a well-deserved break, but there is no break from discipleship.  We carry our experience with us always, even when, and especially when, it makes us uncomfortable because we are outside of our usual element or circumstances of life.

Father Garry Koch is pastor of St. Benedict Parish, Holmdel.

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