Today we hear one of the more interesting, and even unsettling, passages in the gospel. First, Jesus seems to ignore this poor woman. Then, it seems like Jesus insults her. If someone called you a dog, how would you take it? What is Jesus getting at here?
We have to try to put ourselves into the biblical mindset. Remember where Jesus was coming from. He was born into the house of David, he came as the fulfillment of the promises of the Old Testament. God chose Israel to be his own special possession. The woman from the gospel was a Canaanite, these were the people who inhabited the Land before Joshua led the chosen people into it. Throughout the Old Testament we see the Israelites and the Canaanites in conflict. The biggest issue that divided them was their belief in God. Canaanites worshiped their own pagan gods, while the Jewish people worshiped the Lord.
Jesus seems pretty harsh; he was summarizing all of the animosity between the Jewish and Canaanite peoples. But, we notice that when the woman worships Jesus and shows her faith in him, Jesus grants her request. Christ came as the fulfillment of the promises to Israel. But, he came for the whole world. This Canaanite woman is among the first non-Jewish people to come to faith. I find it interesting that even though they come from wildly different backgrounds, her words to Jesus seem a lot like those of St. Peter from last week.
Remember last week, Peter was out walking on the water. He started to sink and he yells out, Lord, Save me. This week, the woman is struggling in the midst of the crowd and her daughter is afflicted by a demon, she cries Lord, help me. Almost the identical words, and the response from Jesus is almost identical. In both cases, Jesus responds by saving Peter and answering the woman’s request. So, here we have two people who couldn’t have come from more different backgrounds and yet both asked for help, both received it from Christ.
We are all different. We all have different upbringings, different backgrounds, different hobbies, different strengths, and different weaknesses. But, there is one thing that unites us all: our common faith.
As a priest I get quite the privileged seat here in church. From up here I get to see just about everyone, although this fan shaped church makes it hard to see all the way back in the corners. I am happy to say that after a year I have gotten to know many of you. So when I look out I know many people. And it is certainly true that we come from different lives. We all have different joys and struggles, but look at us. Here we are, joined by our common faith, our common crying out to Jesus: lord help us. And he does help us.
Christ came for everyone. Next month we will be beginning our RCIA once again. The RCIA is the process by which non-Catholics enter into the Catholic Church. We meet on Tuesday evenings as well as on Sunday’s after the 9:00 Mass. RCIA is definitely for people who want to become Catholic. But, it is also a great place for people who want to learn more about the Catholic faith. I have already had a few people talk to me about going through RCIA next year. But, I want to ask everyone at St. Jude to invite one person to join RCIA. We will only be living up to our calling as a parish if we are sharing the faith with the world around us. Inviting someone to RCIA, inviting him/her to learn more about the Catholic faith is a great way to do this. In your conversation use today’s scripture passage, it shows that Christ came for everyone, no matter the background or life history. At the heart of being a Catholic Christian is one fundamental truth: as Catholics we worship Christ and we all say to him from our hearts: Lord, help me.