Sunday, August 17, 2008
Is Being Called a Dog an Insult?
Did Jesus insult this woman by saying "it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs"? Upon hearing the Gospel today many people hear only an insult. Even after hearing about Jesus healing her, many wonder about his words. They seem so insulting, but are they? They are not. In fact his words rather than insulting her actually reveal her dignity. This dignity is found in her humility. Jesus' words are meant to highlight this humility to exalt it so to speak as he rewards it in the healing of this woman's daughter. Her humility is clearly upon display for all to see. In fact her humility is what Jesus desires to demonstrate to his disciples. She calls out to him but he makes no reply. Only when his disciples request that he act does the dialogue begin. Thus we see that the dialogue is not for the woman's benefit but for his disciples and those who are listening. Look again at the humility of this woman. As a Canaanite she would be looked down upon by Jews, including the followers of Jesus. She is from a different tribe and religion, a pagan. Yet in humility she comes to believe in the Messiah of the Jews. In humility she draws near him, to see him and listen to him. In humility she even is so bold as to make a request of him for her suffering daughter. In humility she perseveres even when she gets no response. In humility she comes and kneels at his feet. Only after this display of profound humility does Jesus say "it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs". And what does his response produce in the woman but even greater humility. She does not protest the label given to her but accepts it and professes her faith that even as a dog Jesus is still her Master and in belonging to him she is deserving of his blessing. "Even dogs can eat the scraps that fall from their master's table. Then Jesus confirms her dignity and blesses her with the healing of her daughter, the honoring of her humble request. There is no insult in today's Gospel. Instead we see a lesson in humility for the disciples and for us. This dialogue could never have taken place if the Canaanite woman had not first been in dialogue with the Holy Spirit deep in her heart. He brought her to Jesus. He taught her humility. We must do the same. In essence the woman today has imitated our Mother Mary who prayed, "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit exalts in God my Savior for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant. The Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is His Name." Blessed Mother was raised up in her lowliness, in her profound humility after the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and brought her Jesus. This Canaanite woman is her daughter and we are her children. Thus we too will be raised up if we can listen to the sweet voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to imitate her humility so we can draw near to Jesus and know His Mercy and Love.