August 8, 2007
Memorial of Saint Dominic, priest
Numbers 13:1-2, 25–14:1, 26a-29a, 34-35
Matthew 15: 21-28
Today's Gospel text is amazing! Well, they all are, but today's really hits me. Some have commented to me how Jesus seems to be mean in this text and maybe even downright sexist. Nothing could be further from the truth! This text is a prime example of just how in tune Jesus was, is and always will be to what it means to be human.
We have the scene where a Cannanite woman is very, very bold. Here she is, an ancestor of those who were an enemy of the Israelites. The tension goes back to that whole incident with Moses and the Promised Land. There would be great stigma associated with being from Cannan, a gentile. It would even be a sin for an Israelite to marry a Cannanite. These people were outcasts in the 1st century to say the least.
So here we have Jesus being approached by a Cannanite woman. She is an outcast in two senses by race and gender. However, she is obviously a woman with great chutzpah! She comes to Jesus and clearly expects him to hear her and give her what she needs. Of course, the disciples are miffed by this. How dare her! Jesus takes the opportunity to teach a very important lesson. That lesson? No one is an outcast in God's eyes.
Jesus appears to give the disciples what they want, he seems to insult this woman. Yet that isn't what Jesus is doing at all, he's waiting for her to be even more bold, to express her great faith and teach everyone a lesson. Jesus places an obstacle in front of her and she steps right over it. She follows Jesus even though it seemed that Jesus was indifferent to her plea. This brave woman follows Jesus and is faithful in spite of any hardship. That we should all be so faithful!
This Cannanite woman is heard and her need is met. The Cannanite woman, an outcast, is shown to be what she truly was, a child of God. We tend to put obstacles and artificial divisions in our relationships. We tend to view some as more worthy than others. We tend to categorize each other and rate one another's value. It is something we all do and it is sinful. Jesus shows the disciples and all who were gathered that no one is outside of God's love. No one is rejected by God because of sinful human judgments. There is no outcast in God's eyes.