“…even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters” she said to Jesus when he protested against her plea for her daughter’s healing. (Mt 15:27)
So says the foreign woman who insisted against all odds that Jesus heal her daughter...” (Matthew Chap 7: 21-28 and Mark Chap 7: 24-30)
Jesus, by right of Jewish law, Scripture, AND tradition, ignored this pagan Canaanite woman’s plea for his attention.
He ignored her because she did not fit into the the cultural and religious paradigm of salvation which formed his mind and conscience. She was NOT only a woman but a foreign-born, Gentile woman…challenging the man who saw himself as messiah of the Jewish people.
What moxie, what strength of character, what nerve she had!
It is no wonder Jesus’ disciples were irritated by her, as they came and asked Jesus, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” (Mt 7:23)
But she persisted and INSISTED. And thus Jesus addressed her explaining, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 15:24)
It took a woman, a foreigner, a pagan woman to see Jesus beyond the confines of his own imagination. He wasn’t going to heal her daughter of the demon which plagued her, no matter how she cried out. It wasn’t His Father’s Will, as far as he could see. She was just a foreign pagan woman. What did she know of his mission as Messiah to the Children of God?
But she persisted and INSISTED. What moxie, what strength of character, what nerve she had!
She would NOT be dismissed. She would NOT give up her desire to be part of the inclusive love of God Jesus was proclaiming. Nor would she give up her faith in him as the one who loves large.
Jesus almost listened to his friends and followers. But something made him stop. His compassion for her? …perhaps.
He engages her… at first explaining why he couldn’t help her… God’s will…his mission was at stake…the children of Israel were his only concern. “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs” he explained in a moment of cognitive dissonance. (Mk 7:27)
Yet she stood her ground and reminded him,”…even the dogs eat the crumbs from the table where the children eat.” The crumbs…yes, the crumbs… Jesus must have pondered her response to the moral dilemma she presented to him:
“Crumbs for the dogs under the table? Is it possible?
A place for the outsider at the table of the children of God?
… even if only under the table?”
Unbeknownst to her, this foreign, pagan woman asked for nothing less than a quantum leap in Jesus’ understanding of his broader mission to the world. Then suddenly the moral dilemma resolves itself in Jesus’ mind:
“When she replied and said to him, ‘Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.; Then Jesus said to her in reply, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed from that hour. (Mark 7: 28 and Matthew 15: 28)
This foreign woman’s faith in God’s Love…her faith in her worth as a person in God’s eyes…and her faith in Jesus and his preaching…THIS faith is what brought Jesus to a moral dilemma in conflict with his Jewish tradition.
This moral dilemma called forth a choice, on Jesus part, between a strict interpretation of tradition and a quantum leap in theological consciousness of how tradition is to be interpreted in his time. It required a quantum leap in Jesus’ understanding of who God is and what God wants…in his historical time and culture.*
Isn’t this the leap in consciousness that we need today in order to re-vision the theology that forms the basis of all doctrine, governance and liturgy in our Church?
Isn’t this the very sense of a living tradition that Vatican II continues to call forth from Christianity and Catholicism today?
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NOTE: Some assume that Jesus knew it all and needed no development of conscience or consciousness, but that would be heresy in regard to Jesus’ full embrace of humanity as defined in the doctrine of the Incarnation. More to come…