Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The persevering woman who offers us crumbs of faith for Lenten sustenance

The Canaanite woman in St. Matthew 15:21-28 approached Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. His disciples who resemble us tell him to send her away as she is an irritant and keeps shouting. Jesus in an effort to converse says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the story starts here. The woman expresses her faith which is unrelenting perseverance. She finds the solution to Jesus’ problem of not being able to look beyond where he has been sent. The woman in her desperation but with unrelenting perseverance points out that in breaking comes out the solution for the problem. There is enough for everyone and everyone has a right to sustenance. This she courageously points out to the amusement of Jesus. Perhaps it is her eye for detail based on her experience on running the household which makes her point out this wonderful solution.

It is interesting that Jesus’ disciples want to ease out the woman and Jesus states a fact. But the woman is not willing to give up. She identifies crumbs as the way out of the situation. Her daughter needs help and the very basic help of sustenance. But none are willing to offer her that. Is there a way out? No one else thinks so. But Jesus offers a rope to hold on to when he says that no one gives dogs what is meant for the children. This is a clear indication of reality. But the woman is not willing to give up. She goes on and expresses her resilient faith making Jesus remark “Great is your faith.”

There was a way out of the deadlock. Jesus offers a possibility and the woman changes it into her opportunity. The dogs live out of the crumbs from the master’s table. What faith indeed! As we celebrate International Women’s Day we should realize that men haven’t given women their due! Men continue to argue that it is not their work. Women have now come into the position of asking for their rights and what is justly theirs. We should understand that men have treated women as second class citizens. But can we continue like this? It is one thing to say that we should follow the cultural changes that are taking place in society. But we should also look at the message in the bible and how we have not been able to get the real message out.

Women have not even been offered the crumbs when in fact the table is equally theirs. We have been like the disciples showing eagerness to sideline the woman and branding her as an irritant. But in reality women deserve much more. Can’t we at least follow Jesus’ model of offering life to the woman by healing her daughter and offering much more than the crumbs? Isn’t lent a time of unrelenting perseverance and resilient faith? Shouldn’t God accept us and tell us “Great is your faith”? Or are we going to be stuck in the temporal limitations of what gender is perceived as?

Jesus could come out of it despite it being part of his culture, traditions and belief. His blessing is an acceptance of the woman and her faith. It is saying yes to the smartness, faith, perseverance and resilience of the woman. Can we on International Women’s Day do this and continue to do this on other days as well? Amen.

(Preached on March 8, 2015 in St. Ignatius JSO Church, K. R. Puram, Bangalore.)

First picture courtesy
Second picture courtesy