In today’s Gospel we find Jesus and his disciples leaving the “chosen people” of Israel and withdrawing into the region of Tyre and Sidon when they are stopped by a pleading woman. Now, although there is much to gain from dissecting every verse of this gospel, today I want to solely focus on one.
“Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”
Note that just before this Jesus had compared her to the likeness of a dog. While I probably would have left angrily, we do not find any anger or resentment in her response. We find hope. This woman understands that she is not an Israelite, which means she is not a part of this “chosen” group that Jesus came for. The heroic thing here is that she understands this and accepts it.
Before we go further I find it necessary for us to consider why Jesus is leaving Israel. Just before this he grew frustrated with the Israelites due to their entitled mindsets in regards to their favors from God. Probably still frustrated and angry with these people, Jesus is then confronted by a woman with the exact opposite mindset and the result is momentous. The woman embraces the inner poverty of herself and puts her whole dependence on the Lord. Unfortunately, we often resemble the Israelites. Much like them, we are often tempted to rely on our own merit or skill to get what we want. This woman challenges that mindset and calls us into a greater dependence. A dog that eats the scraps has no other source of food, yet it is not hungry. We know that with Jesus the scraps will never run dry and we will always be full and satisfied.
Performance Based Love
The Israelites felt entitled to God’s favor and blessings because of their faith and discipline. They looked at God almost in the way many of us in today's world may look at a boss or coach. The more good things I do and the more perfect I am, the more they will favor and love me. Often when things are going poorly, we feel as if we don’t deserve any favor or love from our superiors. The Israelites fall into this performance based version of God, which I can say from personal experience is toxic. Notice that in this mindset it is based on what we bring to the table. If I do this well, then I will be favored. If I avoid this mistake, then I will be loved. Our God is a source of unconditional love, and what I just described sounds pretty conditional if you ask me. It is not what we bring to the table, but what God does. Anything we bring to the table cannot compare to the offerings of God. That is why we must challenge ourselves to have the humble heart that the Canaanite woman. She accepts her weaknesses, her faults, all of her mistakes, essentially her nothingness in comparison to the Lord. She has a profound understanding that Jesus will still show mercy and love to her despite all of these barriers she sees. For me this has been hard to come to terms with, in fact it wasn’t until just recently that I began to make headway in my combatance of this mindset that I have to earn God’s love.
Friends, the quicker we come to understand that the Christian life is a full pouring out of Christ into us, the quicker we come to terms with our own weaknesses that we are ashamed of. Through this understanding we see that God meets us where we are at and invites us into a miracle. We must first though approach Christ in the way the woman did, with humble hearts full of hope. In this approach we understand we may be weak, injured, or damaged, but the greater the challenge, the greater the mercy. For what Father would look upon his wounded child and not first rush to pick them up and console them. This is what we can expect in the days to come as our mindset shifts to be centered not on our own abilities, but on the full offering of Christ. Just as the Canaanite woman’s daughter was healed, we can trust that God will reveal His path for us in this life when we continually go to the table and look for scaps.