Mt 15: 21-28
At first read, Jesus’ responses to the woman in today’s Gospel can seem harsh and off-putting. But there is much we can learn from this encounter.
Jews were the chosen people of God. This woman was a Canaanite, a Gentile, and thus, according to the Jews, had no hope, no claim on God. Yet, she has a deep faith that allows her to see God, to see the divine nature within Jesus, addressing him as Lord, Son of David, the Messiah.
The disciples see the woman as an irritation, a burden, urging Jesus to send her away, quiet her pleading, she is not worthy. Jesus seemingly agrees with them responding to the woman, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. However, perhaps initially Jesus does not answer this woman, does not respond to her request right away, not to turn her away, but for the sake of the disciples and his fellow unbelieving Jews, to ignite their faith.
Jesus sees the true faith within this woman, sees her Belovedness, the potential she has to be an instrument of God, and in their exchange, he draws it forth from her.
Just a few days ago in the Gospel, we heard how the people of Jesus’ home town, the Jewish children of God, lacked faith. Like the older son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, they took the grace and love of the Father, God, in the form of Jesus, for granted. But this Canaanite woman, a supposed outsider, cries out to Jesus, begs for his healing; and her faith is rewarded. We are called to have faith such as this.
This is a witness and lesson for each of us, that we should not be quick to judge, for even in those we least expect it, there is great faith. Instead of looking at others and judging whether or not they believe rightly or have faith enough, we should be looking within ourselves, asking if we truly have faith and trust in the grace and love of God.
This is something I witnessed being lived out last week, during my time in Taizé, France. Taizé is an ecumenical, monastic community that seeks communion with God through prayer and seeks to be a leaven of peace and trust in the midst of the human family. The Taizé Community welcomes thousands of young people from all over the world, who join together for a week of prayer, song, silence, meditation, Bible study, sharing, and work. (http://www.taize.fr/en)
The Taizé Community embodies the lessons of today’s Gospel. They seek to welcome all, and provide a space for all to encounter God. Brother Alois, the Prior of Taizé said, “One of our greatest desires is that all who enter may feel welcomed by God and sense the presence of God in their lives.” Those gathered, all at different points on their faith journey, are brought together in community, and discover that in Christ we truly are one family. At Taizé, you are free to be yourself, to freely seek God in peace, silence and community. Those who may have previously felt outside of the boundaries of church, looked down upon because of their youth or how they live their faith, find God’s loving embrace.
Like the woman in today’s Gospel, many people today are longing for God, crying out for God’s love and healing. Let us not turn them away. Instead, let us embody these words of Brother Andreas of Taizé: Let us “Realize that we are loved by an unconditional Love, and strive to become loving people who bring this love to the world.”
- Tricia Lothschutz