Sunday, August 10, 2014

O Woman, Great Is You Faith

This weeks gospel is offensive. Jesus acts like a racist. What is going on?
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,“Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus’ disciples came and asked him,“Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.”He said in reply,“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply,“It is not right to take the food of the childrenand throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scrapsthat fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply,“O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.
 Mat 15:21-28
Jesus is met by a woman who's daughter has a demon. You expect Jesus to just heal the daughter and move on. Yet He does not do that. First He does nothing. Then after the woman persists He points out that His mission is to the Jews and she is not a Jew. He even compares gentiles to dogs. 

So what happens? Does she get offended. If she does she does not show it. She accepts the analogy that she is a dog. Then she points out that even dogs get scraps from the table. 

That does it. Jesus totally changes his tone. He says her faith is great. He heals her daughter. Now He is being offensive to gentiles. Remember that Jesus has been commenting on how little faith people had. He did it last week after Peter walked on water and faltered. When dealing with Jews he never seems to have anything positive to say about their faith. Now this gentile gets such high praise? Matthew is writing to the Jews. They are going to notice this. 

Yet what is great about her faith? It is precisely her willingness to accept things from God that are offensive to her. She continued to pursue Jesus even when Jesus was less than responsive. She continued even when Jesus seemed to slap her in the face. She does not question the wisdom of God. She accepts her position and still begs for mercy. 

That is the key. She realizes that the offense Jesus might have given her does not change the fact that she is a sinner begging for mercy.  She does not have grounds to complain to God. God is still God. If something seems wrong to her then it must be her that is the problem and not God. Yet she does not give up either. She persists. She argues. She even grovels. 


We have a lot of the opposite in today's society. People say the church needs to change to make them feel more welcome. You hear it from gay rights groups, from feminists, from youth and many other places. They find some things offensive. They demand the church change. To some extent it should change. That is not the point. 

The point is they have lost the idea that they are a sinner begging for mercy. They look at the church as a human organization that serves people in various ways. They see themselves as the consumer. Consumers judge the various business that provide products and services. That is the way free markets work. That is the way democracy works. It is not the way the church works. 

Ultimately we need to be very aware that we are approaching God. That we don't have a right to communion with God. God should reject us based on our sin. He does not do that but we should not lose sight of the fact that that is what we deserve. God is holy. We are sinners. That needs to inform the way we interact with the church.


Secondly, we need to know that God is smarter than us. Modern man has all sorts of technology and all sorts of access to information. We think we are pretty smart. Someone might say, "I don't see why it should matter if a priest is a man or a woman." Similarly they might say, "Why would same-sex marriage be any different from opposite sex marriage?" 

What is behind the question? I am smart and the church just isn't. If I don't see the reason why a rule might be in place then you can safely assume there is no good reason. I am just that knowledgeable. Often this attitude comes from people who can't even name the 4 gospels. It is not that they know a lot about scripture, sacred tradition and Catholic theology. They don't. They have decided there is nothing worth knowing. 

What is behind that? There is a very weak awareness of the reality of God. They don't see God as so rich that they would be overjoyed with the scraps of His table. That is where this Canaanite woman is at. She does not think that if I don't get my way I am just going to leave. She thinks Jesus is her only hope and she will gladly accept any humiliation to receive His healing. That is what people do when they are even vaguely aware of who God is and who they are. 

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