“‘Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s
scraps.’ Then he said to her, ‘For saying this, you
may go. The demon has gone out of your daughter.’”
In this passage Jesus does almost a Simon Cowell number on a Greek
woman willing to do whatever it takes to help her daughter including
being called names. Then Jesus makes amends by healing the daughter.
Why would Jesus treat the woman like that?
As I reflected on this passage, I drew three important messages–
perhaps lessons Jesus intended the episode to teach:
1. Making demands on behalf of the weak and afflicted requires risk-taking.
2. Authority figures must be open to requests from weak and despised.
3. Doing good demands persistence.
This woman reminded me of my mother who has spent a lifetime refusing
to accept “no” when justice is at stake. I’ve
never forgotten how she got me into my closed freshman university
classes – a problem caused by a university error. Lower officials
said in effect “so sad, too bad” but Mother persisted.
We sat in the dean’s office until after 6 as the janitors
cleaned. Finally the dean emerged, said no several more times and
asked us to leave. Mother persisted. Finally an unhappy (and probably
hungry) dean gave me my classes. Like the woman in today’s
reading, Mother fought for justice for her child – willing
to take the heat and do what it took. It’s an extremely important
lesson for all of us.
Jesus’ initial response to the woman reminds me how easy it
is for authority figures to reject requests from people because
of their race, education, age, sex, income, sexual orientation etc.
However unlike most powerful people, Jesus reverses course and grants
the woman’s request. He doesn’t just walk away or tell
his disciples to get rid of her. This should remind decision makers
to LISTEN to petitioners with respect rather than ignoring them
for an arbitrary reason.
Finally, this reading teaches that we must persist when we fight
for justice. We can’t fold the first time someone says no.
Jesus’ ultimate response to the woman gives us hope that we