Is 56: 1, 6-7; Rom 11:13-15, 29-32; Mt 15: 21 -28
2oth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” It comes as a shock at first to read these words coming out of the mouth of Jesus. Especially when one considers the context: He says these words in response to a woman who is pleading with him to heal her daughter. His reason for refusing: She’s not a Jew.
What were the evangelists thinking to include a story like this? And it’s not just Matthew – Mark has the story also (Mk &:24-30). My goodness – weren’t there some kind of spin doctors who could’ve quietly edited this story out?
There are a couple of possible explanations. Some interpret the story as a test of faith – Jesus wanted to make sure this woman really believed. I don’t buy that one because 1)Why would Jesus need to do this? and 2) A God who “tests” human beings by putting them through any number of masochistic trials would be a rather miserable excuse for a deity.
So, how about this – Maybe the early Church was trying to send us a message? This is a story about a mother with a sick child who refuses to take no for an answer. In the best rabbinical tradition (something Jesus would have respected) she takes his words and turns them right around -“Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall of the table”. And in that moment, perhaps because of the sharp reparte – Jesus changes his mind. He sees beyond the parameters of his mission to Israel and catches a glimpse of the common humanity that unites him and the woman. And the woman’s request is granted.
What would a Church look like that, while being faithful to its’ mission to the “new Israel”, listened this intently to those beyond that mission field? A Church that took the needs and witness of women this seriously? A Church that, when faced with undeniable evidence that the Holy Spirit was leading into new territory, simply followed? A Church that recognized the needs for healing that were right in front of it as its’ number one priority?
Do you think that the world might catch a clearer glimpse of Christ in such a community?
Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)
(To purchase my book length reflections on the Scripture – and the Church – go to www.twentythirdpublications.com)