It would have helped to have been there

In today’s Gospel was some peculiar dialogue that stuck with me. It was the image of this Canaanite woman imploring Jesus to heal her daughter. Minus nonverbal cues, it seems like Jesus is acting kind of like, well, a jerk, saying to the woman:

“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

But she persists and says, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

Then Jesus turns around and says, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Now what’s up with that? I think, and my concordance concurs, that Jesus is being tongue-in-cheek when he calls her a “dog”. I think he is mocking the social superiority that Jews conferred upon themselves as the “chosen people” over the gentiles. In a way, he may have been sarcastically projecting what his critics might whisper amongst themselves were he to stop and help this woman.

But I imagined her to be sharp. She picked up his ironic intent. She could do with a mere scrap of his time. And she provided an answer for Jesus to use with his future critics. I imagine Jesus and the woman exchanging a knowing smile — an inside joke of sorts. If it were not for the woman’s state of distress, I could almost imagine a shared wink. They both knew that the power of faith went way beyond religion. The fact that she wasn’t a Jew, the fact that she’d probably never uttered a word of prayer to his Father before, didn’t matter a whit. She needed help and knew Jesus could do it. And so Jesus helped.

Man I wish it was always that simple. Of course I wish I had faith like that!

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