O Woman, Great is your Faith! – Matthew 15:28
The Lord Welcomes All
All of us who ache to be accepted find lavish comfort in today’s readings. Rich in mercy, the Lord welcomes all of us – no exceptions. Isaiah extends God’s invitation to all nations, even to foreigners who often arouse suspicion from the “in crowd.” Saint Paul takes advantage of these fearful suspicions by provoking the Israelites’ jealousy: if even Gentiles can offer acceptable worship to the one true God, then God’s chosen people should surely do the same. In a similar way, Jesus provokes his disciples in today’s Gospel from Matthew. Bantering with a Canaanite women, Jesus draws out her tremendous faith, which endures despite the typical rejection she faces from scornful Israelites. Whether we identify more with the privileged disciples or the marginalized Canaanite woman, we cannot mistake God’s universal invitation to believe in the One who saves us.
At one time or another, we have all been rejected or ridiculed, left out of a conversation, or not invited to a party. It hurts to be excluded. God makes all things new, though, and our scriptures today invite us to turn over our aching hearts to the Lord. Some of us might feel reluctant to give our hearts to the Lord, especially if our suffering somehow involves God or the Church. Why pour out hearts to God, after all, if God seems to be the cause of our troubles? A tragic loss, a painful death, or an unavoidable catastrophe can disrupt or destroy our life plans. When people clumsily console us then, saying, “It’s God’s will.” We can easily become suspicious of God and the almighty will. If we suffer from the sinful structures or actions of God’s representatives and ministries in the Church, we might look with skepticism at the prayers of the same Church.
Even so, our Canaanite woman today persuades us not to lose hope. The disciples scorn her, complaining that she “Keeps calling” out for help. Like irritable children, the disciples ask Jesus to “send her away.” And just when we might expect Jesus to take her side, to scold the disciples and reward the woman’s persistence, he shocks us by implying she is a dog. Undaunted, the woman accepts Jesus’ remark and parlays its aggression into her own forceful plea: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
The woman’s faith is irresistible – to Jesus, and to us. Jesus grants her heart’s desire, healing her daughter from that very moment. We too are won over by her indomitable confidence in the Lord. Truly, this woman is one of the heroes of the New Testament. When difficulties suffocate us and we feel turned away like a stray dog, we can recall the Canaanite woman’s simple words: “Lord, help me.”
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