Isaiah 56: 1, 6-7; Matthew 15: 21-28
A house of prayer for all peoples…even thousands of years after those words were penned does it seem as if we aren’t any closer to breaking down walls and divides between peoples of faith. Yet, the prophetic vision remains one to strive for but recognizing that it’s not God that divides and it is not God that divides; God makes whole and God makes one. It is us, me and you, that build walls and divide.
It seems, at face value, that Jesus needs a little reckoning with God in today’s Gospel. But I think it provides us an opportunity to look below the surface at what’s going on in this passage. Keep in mind that much of the interaction in the gospel is between Jesus and the disciples. They are the ones that first make a derogatory comment about the outsider, this Canaanite woman. Rather than looking at Jesus as the one in need of conversion, why not look at Jesus as the one holding up a mirror to the disciples to try to show them just how small their god really is, attempting to raise to the surface this sense of belittling of this woman, a Gentile, someone who has been looked down upon her entire life, and as the mirror faces them, Jesus reminds that there is a human being behind it all. There is a human being in need of healing behind the stereotype, the belittling, the attempt at trying to take away her dignity, this outsider, who in turn, is raised up as an insider because of her depth of true faith.
How big or little is your god? Jesus doesn’t only hold the mirror up to the disciples, he holds it up to us today as well. I think of so many of the words of Pope Francis in his short tenure as leader, “who am I to judge”, his comments that open the door to atheists, and just this morning he spoke to our Muslim brothers and sisters to speak out against such violence in the name of “God” to people of faith. When we see even God beyond labels and see God as this deep sense of mystery, how can God not hold it all? This violence must stop. If it is violent. If it is destroying human life. If it is stripping the dignity of who we are and whose we are, it is not of God! The mirror is held up to the disciples, to us, and to the world these days where there is so much hatred, violence, and destruction. This God of mystery can hold it all, heal it all, make it whole, and bring about oneness within myself, you, and the world. Is your God big enough to do the impossible? Does your God bear enough room and mystery to hold it all?
Then here’s this woman, the outsider, seeking healing in her life watching all this unfold. Here’s not only a woman of deep faith, who’s willing to risk it all by stepping on Jewish territory to seek out what is needed in her life. She has had to let go of everything. She can no longer worry about what they would think of her. She can no longer be held back by the labels and stereotypes that have been placed upon her. She has given up everything that she has believed about herself through others and found her true self. She is a woman that has found her true identity and not even fear is going to stop her from seeking out the true God in Christ. The mirror is up and she sees as God sees. She desires to love as God loves. Here is a woman that is held as a model for the disciples and us, to let go of the stereotypes, the bigotry, the hatred, and all that we use to label and divide and to seek the God of love and mercy.
How big is your God? What do you see as Jesus lifts that mirror up to me and to you? These are challenging readings for us to hear today and even more challenging when we can accept that they are speaking to us today. The mirror is hard to look into when we have lost our way, when all we see is the ugly side of our humanity. God sees who we really are. God loves all of us and all that is us; we must stop all that divides and seek out the faith the Canaanite woman exemplifies in this gospel. The mirror stands before us and the world. Today we must ask, “How big is my God?”