20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus leaves Palestine to withdraw to the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory. A Canaanite woman begins to follow him, calling out repeatedly, Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David. My daughter is tormented by a demon. Notably, this pagan woman is addressing him as the Messiah, the Son of David!
He ignores her, but she’s persistent! When the disciples ask Jesus to send her away, he reminds them that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He should have sent her away, but he didn’t. Instead, he tells her, It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs. This sounds so unlike Jesus to us. But the word Jesus uses for dogs is playful, not insulting. A better translation would be doggies, tiny lap dogs!
The woman picks up on his ironic joke. Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. Impressed by the depth of her faith, he instantly cures her daughter.
In Jesus’s society, the world was divided “them and us.” This divide was dictated and enforced by the religious leadership. Clearly, Jesus didn’t follow these populist traditions so engrained in his society. He traveled outside of Palestine, cured many Gentiles, and even praised the depth of their faith, as witnessed in the passage today. He regularly suffered attacks from the religious right for his position. Eventually, they had him executed.
Today, let’s think about the “them and us” phenomenon tragically deteriorating the ideals on which our country was founded. This scene with Jesus and the Canaanite woman compels us to question how much I might have bought into the them-and-us dynamic. What must I do to permit Jesus to heal this situation through me? How can I be part of the remedy?
Lord Jesus, Son of David, you healed the Roman centurion’s slave, the Samaritan leper, the Gerasene demonic. You offered eternal life to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. I beg you to heal my heart and the heart of my country. Give me the strength to suffer as you suffered when you reached out to the foreigner and the outcast. Lord Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me, a sinner.