Even dogs have hope! This is what the woman says to Jesus, when she asks him to heal her tormented daughter. She classifies her family with the dogs, knowing the average Israelite would describe a Canaanite that way. Jesus is astounded by her faith, and gives her the desire of her heart.
Some scholars claim Jesus was testing the woman by not responding to her requests right away. Others say Jesus learned from her that his mission was larger than Israel. This seems strange to those of us who were taught that Jesus had the mind of God from the time Mary first laid him in the straw. But if Jesus is also fully human, he’d have to grow in wisdom and grace, as Luke says Jesus did.
This woman summoned up the courage to tell Jesus how to run his own ministry! The best of the prophets and saints showed this kind of spirit, sparring with God over matters of importance to them. Who knows what could happen if more people prayed with such confidence? Who knows how many of us could wrestle with God like Abraham, Jacob, Hannah, and the Canaanite woman – and win?
Do you think God’s mind can be changed? Do you think there are things about God which ‘God’s mind is made up’? Name some things that might fall in either category.
Show some chutzpah! Resolve to pray for the things that are most important to you – peace in the world, an answer to hunger – or a job or a better relationship with your spouse. Pray unceasingly, as Paul says, or sing your prayer, as Augustine recommends. But pray most of all unfailingly.
‘Oh, woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!’
The Scripture (Matthew 15: 23-25, 28
Jesus ignored her. The disciples came and complained, ‘Now she’s bothering us. Would you please take care of her? She’s driving us crazy’. Jesus refused, telling them, ‘I’ve got my hands full dealing with the lost sheep of Israel’. Then the woman came back to Jesus, went to her knees, and begged. ‘Master, help me. Jesus gave in. ‘Oh woman, your faith is something else. What you want is what you get!’ Right then her daughter became well.
My father told me the story about his being an immigrant teenager desperately looking for work on the East Coast of the United States with his two brothers. Employment office after employment office had signs that said, ‘Italians need not apply’ or ‘No Italians wanted’. To find work, they had to go to Pennsylvania and take the dangerous job of working in the coal mines, work that nobody else wanted.
Perhaps that is why when he opened his grocery store, he was tolerant of all who wanted to work for him or shop there. He always said that the money people spend was green, not black or white or brown. He was very pragmatic, if anything.
So, too, the church is welcoming, or should be, of all who choose to believe its message. Paul makes that clear as he brought the Gentiles into the church. Isaiah, states that God’s house ‘is called a house of prayer for all people’.
So we gather, all of us, with our differences, but united in one faith and ask for God’s help in all that we do. It is that faith and our need for God’s help that joins us together. All are welcome. All are wanted. All belong.
Deepen our faith, O God:
deepen our understanding of your Word;
keep us open to the prompting of the Spiit;
broaden the scope of our compassionate acts;
inspire us to new endeavours in this faith community;
enable us to support the world-wide church.
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