20TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME - A
Have you ever experienced calling God in your dire need? Do you recall how you behaved yourself before God during the time when you thought you needed him the most? The Canaanite woman in the gospel this Sunday shows us how we can melt the heart of a God and win his favour.
The woman was from Canaan; in other words she was a foreigner for the Jews. When Jesus was passing by that pagan territory the woman must have heard about him and shouted “Lord, Son of David, have pity on me; my daughter is tormented by a devil.” The woman acknowledged Jesus as a Jew by referring to him as the Son of David. It was very unusual of Jesus who did not even say a word in response to the woman. Because the woman was becoming an annoyance, the disciples pleaded with Jesus to give in to her request but what they got was a seemingly cold response: "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." Now the woman bowing low before Jesus pleaded “Lord, help me.” But Jesus' next response was almost contemptuous and intolerant: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs.” It is hard to believe that those words came from the very mouth of Jesus. Jesus may have sounded arrogant, discriminatory and dehumanizing when he likened the woman to a little dog. But just like any other mother the woman could take in anything even to the point of being humiliated in public just to save her daughter. In all her humility, she not only accepted her being like a dog before Jesus and said “I am just asking for scraps that fall from the master’s table.”
For three times, the responses of Jesus to the plea of the woman might sound very negative and almost demeaning! But in those humbling moments, Jesus was giving the woman opportunities to shine. The more she was humiliated, the more she humbled herself. Rising above her limited self she won the very difficult argument with flying colours not through her intellectual prowess but through her humility. Like all our mothers, she was willing to accept any humiliation for the sake of her daughter. It was the greatness of a mother’s heart that persevered throughout the difficult test of faith.
Aren’t we all beggars pleading for scraps that may fall from God's table? Are we ready to accept humiliation even to the point of breaking away from our comfort zones? If we are in desperate need like the woman, we let go of our pride and storm heaven with humility until the heart of God melts to give us his mercy.
To save the person we love most, we will do everything even to the point of giving up something we hold very dear. That’s what Jesus did when he gave up his life for us so that we may eat not just the scraps that fall from the table but that we may eat to our heart’s content in the table as God's children. This invitation to dine in the heavenly banquet is not just for the Jews, for Christians but for all peoples because salvation is for all who trust. It takes a humble heart to melt the heart of God.