Thursday, July 26, 2018
Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But Christ did not answer her at all. And His disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
Christ answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly. – Matthew 15:21-28
I find this encounter between Christ and a foreign woman to be so confounding. The conversation seems to indicate that Christ was persuaded to change His mind. It is as if Christ “repented”, as if Christ made a course correction.
The reactive impulse is to state that Christ and God never change, that God has had galvanized “destiny” into “fate”. But if one spends a lifetime reading the scriptural history one finds that God does sometimes change His course. This constancy of God to reserve the right to change His mind is really at the heart of true prophecy, for true prophecy is not about predicting the future but rather forecasting the future if changes are not made. This responsiveness of God as we witness it in Christ’s interaction with this foreign woman is what is constant within the grace and mercy of God, not to condemn the world but to save the world.
Another aspect of the recording of this moment is the rather harsh reaction of the disciples to this woman who begs for a miracle. “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” I sense that Christ also changed His course to correct the attitude in the disciples, an attitude of indifference and an attitude of subconscious tribalism. I sense the disciples might have been thinking, “We are rabbis to Israelites, not to you lower caste Canaanites, forever our enemies!” If this attitude was still lingering in His disciples, Christ would not tolerate it.
Finally, a bit of theology … faith, genuine faith is found everywhere even among the Canaanites … even among the Samaritans … even among the Romans … but far too often, not in the hearts of supposedly devout Israelites.
Always in Christ’s Service,
Fr. Charitas de la Cruz