Daily Reflection – 8/5/2020
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour. (Matthew 15: 21-28)
The persistence of the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel is remarkable. The response of Jesus is not remarkable but expected. Yet, in His response, lies a challenge for us.
The words of Jesus initially sound so harsh, so mean, so wrong. They are. But maybe they are not about Jesus or the woman. Jesus is naming the reality of the world in which they both live. The reality is that there are children and there are dogs. We see it every day. Some have while many do not. Some are in and others are out. For some life flourishes. Others struggle to make it another day. Children and dogs.
Jesus can be seen as holding a mirror up to the disciples, revealing their prejudice and bigotry and challenging the woman to stand up for her dignity in the face of hatred. Christ, by healing her, sends a strong message to his disciples that he has come both for the Jewish people and the Gentiles as well. It is an interpretation that can see Jesus provoking the woman to boldness in the face of hate.
This interpretation reminds us that human dignity is something that people need to defend. Due to our fallen nature, we can easily fall into the trap of embracing a prejudicial mindset that tears down people based on exteriors. We love to proclaim how we are a people of equality, but a walk through the park or the mall with ears carefully attuned to the conversations around us can reveal otherwise. Whether it be the color of one’s skin, the size of one’s waste line, the cloths that someone is wearing, the limp in the walk of someone with a physical disability, the snide comment with a sexual undercurrent, or the homeless person who hasn’t had a chance to shower in over a week, we can become vicious and treat people like dogs in the bad sense. We need Christ to hold this mirror to our face and be reminded of the dignity that all people possess.
The dignity of the person is the only legitimate end in any society. The rights of the individual precede the rights of the state, or the rights of the majority within a society. If the state or the majority do not ensure the dignity of the individual, they lose moral legitimacy.
Respect for the individual transcends mere legal means. Those in society must foster the virtue of solidarity: to treat others as self. This includes the poor, the disadvantaged, the illiterate. This also includes those who look, think, or act differently. Prejudice based upon social or cultural differences is incompatible with God’s plan. We cannot hold it within us nor should we tolerate any person – regardless of station in life – who treats any one with prejudice or lack of respect for the dignity of another.
God made us all in his image. We all possess the power to choose. When we choose to serve others, especially those different from ourselves, we choose to be formed in God’s likeness. Because we serve God’s creatures in the same way God serves them, we take on divine qualities. We take steps closer to his likeness.
Prejudice, injustice, and social separation promote the likeness of the demon. To battle this image, we all need the faith of the Canaanite woman whose loyalty broke down barriers. May our prayer be as persistent as hers and our trust as strong.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May I trust you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase my faith in your saving power and deliver me from all evil and harm.”
The end of solidarity is not the merely a sense of equity between members of a society. Solidarity transcends the material need. The virtue bonds people from different social backgrounds, classes, and cultures together in a common purpose that finds its source in faith.