Canaanite Woman, Matthew 15:21 – 28
This passage bothers me and it bothers a lot of people. There isn’t another passage like this in the gospels. A woman comes to Jesus and pleads for the life of her sick child. This is not a new request – we have seen many like this but here Jesus acts as if he doesn’t even see this woman. He hasn’t ignored anyone in any other story, yet there she is, a desperate mother who is treated as if she is invisible to ‘Emmanuel’ – God with us. (OK, who are you and what have you done with our Jesus?!?)
As a woman and a parent, this touches my deepest fears because there is no way to explain away this slight. We can’t say it was because she was not a Jew or that it went against social customs; Jesus has crossed all kinds of social boundaries and healed plenty of folks who weren’t Jewish. Is God fickle? Are there limits to God’s mercy and who gets them? When will I, or someone I love, move onto God’s black list as this woman apparently has?
We all know what it is like to feel invisible; to be treated as if we are not important and don’t count. I cannot explain why this woman is treated so badly but the Canaanite woman is undeterred. She does not object to God’s having mercy on other people, in fact it gives her hope. Mercy may begin with the ‘chosen’ people, but this woman truly believes it cannot end there. She is smartest enough to know that there is no end to commodities like hope, love, joy and mercy, regardless of how it may appear on the surface. This woman comes to Jesus with the unshakable faith that there is enough of God’s mercy for her daughter and for herself, even if it is just a scrap that someone else rejected. Wow.
Holy One, when I feel invisible, even to you, increase my faith and multiply my persistence.