Gospel 20th August 2008
He answered her not a word.
hen out came a Canaanite woman from the district and started shouting, "Sir, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil."
But he answered her not a word. And his disciples went and pleaded with him. "Give her what she wants," they said "because she is shouting after us."
He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel."
But the woman had come up and was kneeling at his feet. "Lord," she said "help me." He replied ,"It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the house dogs." She retorted, "Ah yes, sir; but even house dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted." And from that moment her daughter was well again.
I invite you to look at the Canaanite woman and see if she reminds you of anybody you know; she may even remind you of yourself. She was a determined and forceful person. She came out of her own territory to look for help. She was at a disadvantage because she was a woman on her own and she was a foreigner. Yet she shouted to catch Jesus’ attention and she continued to shout after him. When she finally met him she went on her knees to plead for her child. She had great love and she had great faith.
There is one more remarkable thing about this woman: she accepted that she was not entitled to anything. Jesus reminded her of this in a dramatic way – and in a way that upset and offend most people. He heard her calling him but he did not say a word to her. She continued to call out but he gave no answer. Most shockingly of all, when she was on her knees pleading with him, he said to her, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the house-dogs.’
What did he mean? First of all we must know what he did not mean. Jesus never disrespected people, or shamed them or put them down. He reminded her of something that is true of every human being: she was not entitled to anything from him or from his Father. Neither she nor anybody else has any privilege that entitles them to something from God. In God’s family we cannot claim the rights of a son or daughter: we are more like house dogs, which have no rights. Of course this is only part of the story; it is the shocking part – and yet it is the smaller part.
The bigger part of the story is that, by God’s free choice, every human being is a beloved child of God and has an honoured place in the family. The Jewish people are a symbol of this. God called them his Chosen People and they are a reminder to the world that all people are God’s chosen people, each one a beloved son or daughter of the Father. The Canaanite woman accepted that she had no more rights than a house dog, but that did not mean that she felt inferior to anyone else or that she had to keep quiet and do nothing. She was confident that Jesus could and would help her. Jesus treated her as a beloved child of the Father and cured her daughter.