Wednesday in the Eighteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Scripture Readings:  Jer 31:1-7; Mt 15:21-28

Today’s gospel is about aggressive persistence in our petitions! It’s like the college girl who said to her boyfriend: “Tell me, Joe, do you think I’m too aggressive? I want a straight answer, and I want it now.” Similarly, Jesus encounters a pushy, pesky Canaanite mother who insists on a favorable answer right now.  

But why is Jesus so mean, so chauvinistic, so racist, so cold and downright insulting in the way he treats this mother?  It’s because his encounter with a Canaanite woman is following the cultural protocol of those times.  Jesus wants to heal the child, but unattended women were not permitted to speak with men in public, especially with strangers across racial barriers and national boundaries.  Jesus, as custom requires, at first ignores her.  But her persistence demands a response.  Knowing she is a foreigner from a people who were hostile to Jews, Jesus replies that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel and that the children’s food is not for dogs.  

In this haggling back and forth the mother’s aggressive persistence is also graced with deep humility.  She replies, “Yes, Lord, but even little pet dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master’s table.”

She wanted a straight answer—she wanted it now—and she received it, not only for herself, but as an example for all of us to be persistent in our prayers but with humility. Jesus is delighted with her response and exclaims: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”