This reflection is based on Matthew 15:21-28.
Today’s Gospel story offers us an untypical portrait of Jesus–and an unwelcome one as well. A distressed Canaanite woman approaches the Lord and requests His healing for her sick daughter. “Have pity on me!” she cried out. “My daughter is tormented by a demon.”
But instead of immediately granting the request as he often does, in this particular case, we are told, Jesus ignores the woman and only after the woman manages to drive his disciples crazy with her nagging that he finally turns to her. But even then, he does not grant her request. He tells her that his mission is to the house of Israel, which does not include a Canaanite like her.
But when the woman still refuses to give up and asks for his help anew, our Lord says something even more unexpected: “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Again, the woman remains unfazed, stands her ground, and responds quite courageously: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Impressed by her faith, Jesus decides to make an exception and heals the woman’s daughter
I don’t know about you, but if I got a response as negative (and as surprisingly harsh!) as she did, I’d probably feel bad, give up, and just walk away. Come to think of it, maybe that’s what we’re doing already!
Think about it. This whole global pandemic has lasted for over five months now–and while medical doctors and health workers have figured out a better way to manage the infected patients, there seems to be no light at the end of this tunnel just yet. Is it possible that unlike the Canaanite woman, we’ve given up because we’ve already prayed for a solution countless of times, haven’t we? And the Lord seems to reject our requests just as he did the Canaanite woman’s in the Gospel.
Could we be interpreting his silence as a refusal to listen, to care, and to help? Could we be doing exactly what the woman in the story refuses to do: Giving up? Walking away? Either we have too little faith or too much pride. Whatever our reasons, we give up too easily on the Lord. After all, we tell ourselves–but never out loud–what’s the point of hoping if God seems to ignore us and leave our prayers unanswered?
The valuable lesson that the Canaanite woman is teaching us today is that we should not give up too easily on the Lord regardless of the kind of response we may, for whatever reason, imagine we’re getting from him. It is precisely at these moments when we feel that God doesn’t care for us that we should make the conscious decision to stay, humbly stand our ground, and as the woman does in the gospel story, keep the faith.
Or perhaps we feel too important to beg for crumbs that fall from the table. Do you feel too entitled to settle for nothing less than a place at the table?
Today’s Gospel story shows us that it is actually humility–like that of the Canaanite woman–that will eventually get us invited to a place at the table. It is when we have too much pride in ourselves–and too little faith in the Lord–that we ironically end up having to make do with crumbs.
We don’t need to just make do with crumbs. The last thing the Lord wants us to do is to make do with the scraps that fall on the floor because he has prepared for us a feast on the table.