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20th Sunday in Ordinary Time

"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." (Mt. 15:21-28)

Many scholars continue to wrestle with the above text, looking for a clearer understanding of Jesus' actions. Matthew's Gospel presents an image of Jesus rarely seen. Is he angry? Why would Jesus dismantle one's humanity by calling a Canaanite woman a dog? Did he notice her chained to a dog house? This verse startles us the readers. The disciples are silent, giving perhaps a sign of approval. They seem comfortable with Jesus describing this woman as a dog. Do you see anyone coming to her side? Does their silence speak to the biblical pre-existing racial and gender caste hierarchy? Are we dealing with systemic racist behavior, similar to the poison we drink daily? You know, say nothing, remain silent on this issue, thinking that the evil of racism will disappear.

However, this Canaanite woman displayed a resilient spirit. She was adorned with a super woman's vest with a big "S." This "S" stood for the spirit that lives inside all of us. I imagine her saying, "Don't call me a dog. Created in the image of God, I know the one who created me. Ain't I, a woman!" The disciples had to have been shocked by her stance, "Aint I, a woman!" They were perhaps giggling at first, but now the disciples see a strong woman of faith defined by the love of God and not by bigotry nor hatred attitudes. Nothing will stop this Canaanite woman from getting healing for her daughter.

Journeying deeper here, why do we have Jesus speaking so harshly? Some say that Jesus was testing the woman's faith. Well, she passed that test. Some say that she outsmarted Jesus and changed his mind. There may be something to that thought since we know that in the Old Testament scriptures, Abraham bargained with God, and Moses told God to remember his promise to Israel's children. Why not a woman?

There is another thought, perhaps Jesus was fed up with the Jewish racial and gender caste hierarchy system. Maybe Jesus, knowing all things, used this woman to address the Jews' views against other cultures. With her demonstrative faith, Jesus responded to the woman by saying, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." Just maybe the most significant miracle here for the disciples is to witness Jesus' willingness to care for others outside of Israel's house. The Canaanite woman opened her vest with an "S" on her chest, knowing that the God she loves is blessing when the devil is messing.

"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:28)

Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, M. A.

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