By Fr. Frank J. Timar, MSC
Sometimes, Jesus’ behavior was very baffling. He said and did things that were surprising, even shocking. A good example of this happened when a desperate mother pleaded with Jesus to heal her sick daughter. She wasn’t Jewish, and, at first, Jesus paid her no mind and didn’t say a word to her. That seems so unlike Him. Then it seems that Jesus brushes her off with a rather harsh sounding statement about not throwing food intended for children to the dogs. She is feisty and fires back, which catches Jesus off guard, and says she will settle for the scraps if that is all that’s left. Her faith is over-powering, and Jesus cannot let that go unrecognized, and we are left to admire the faith of this mother who was pleading, not for herself, but for her sick child.
There’s not a doubt about Jesus compassion. Every page of every gospel shows how compassionate He was. But with this story, Jesus is asking His followers, the insiders, to invite the outsiders and those who don’t count into their circle of love. This story of rejection occurs daily. When we are in pain or when we see so many people hurting, we question whether God really cares. It takes great faith to believe in God’s care for us in the face of all odds. When we face the confusing and, sometimes, tragic events of life, we need to remember the ending of this story and hold on to our faith, like the Canaanite woman did.
Once again, we are challenged to act like Jesus, not in His seeming disregard for someone pleading for help, but in His gracious and kind words of healing and acceptance. Do we ever exclude someone from our community or from our lives? What prejudices or biases do we have against another culture or race? We must learn how to expand our hearts as Jesus did to the Roman centurion, the Canaanite woman, and many others. They were not beyond God’s saving power, just like today’s voiceless, weak, destitute, powerless, or undocumented immigrants. We need to find ways to see people who are invisible in our society, not looking upon them as objects, but as individuals deeply loved by God. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta exhorted us to be God’s kindness to others. In the slums, act as a light to the poor as well as to children and all who suffer from loneliness. Lift them up with a smile, she said. Give them your love and compassion, but especially your heart. Have we taken her words and put them into action?