Studying scripture one understands that this passage is pointing out two opposing sides. A Canaanite women and the chosen people of God.
The Canaanite women is “the outsider” approaching Jesus in great distress for her daughter. She is persistent, and we hear an echo of the disciples asking Jesus to tell the children to go away. In this passage they ask Jesus to tell the Canaanite women to go away. Jesus says, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”
How often are we in this dilemma? We have to choose. It is clear in the opening line that Jesus was leaving a place and was withdrawing. It suggests he is tired. How many times as a mother after a long day, have I come home to some drama of homework, family situation, sick child or a rush to hospital for a family member? How often have I been reactive? “Not now, Lord. I am tired” Rarely do I stop like Jesus does in this passage and silently pray to Father for will for this situation? I can also relate to the disciples. If they persuade Jesus to send her away then the problem is someone else’s. The outsider is not discouraged when Jesus says he can’t feed the bread for his children to dogs. She responds with humility. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”.
Jesus’s words seem harsh but there is a lesson for us to recognise how blessed we are to be invited daily or weekly to the Eucharist. It is the great faith of this women to come forward knowing that even the crumbs from the masters table are as valuable as the bread.
Some years ago, I got a call at work that a family were coming at noon to purchase a Columbarium niche. But they did not arrive. At 5pm, it was growing dark I needed to leave work on time to collect my 8 year old son from football practice. At that moment a young couple and an elderly man arrived. Assuming, it was the ashes of the wife of the elderly requiring a niche. I greeted them but was annoyed. I rushed them, by anxiously saying they had 10 minutes as I needed to pick up my son. What they told me changed the whole situation. The couple had delivered their first born child that day. Their full term baby was still born. They were apologetic for their lateness due to an unavoidable delay in their discharge from hospital. As I took in the situation, I broke down in tears and it was their compassion that consoled me.
How often do we choose to shut out “the outsiders” from our hearts? We thank our loving God for shining his light on these moments of conflict in our lives where we receive the greatest teachings on humility and how to choose love.
As I contemplate the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite women, I see the rich lesson of mercy for his disciples. We too are often the bystanders in many significant events of people’s lives in our community let us look for God’s mercy and love in every situation.