JESUS BELONGS TO EVERYONE
A pagan woman takes the initiative of approaching Jesus even though she doesn’t belong to the Jewish people. She’s an upset mother whose life has been one of suffering with a daughter «tormented by a demon». She comes to meet Jesus shouting: «Lord, Son of David, take pity on me».
Jesus’ first reaction is surprising. He doesn’t even stop to listen to her. The hour has not yet come to bring the Good News of God to the pagans. But since the woman keeps insisting, Jesus justifies what he’s doing: «I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel».
The woman doesn’t give up. She will overcome every difficulty and resistance. In a bold gesture she prostrates at Jesus’ feet, stopping him in his tracks, and on her knees, with a humble but firm heart, she just shouts out: «Lord, help me».
Jesus’ response is extremely unusual. Though in that age the Jews called the pagans «dogs» without blinking an eye, his words sound offensive to our ears: «It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs». Taking up his image in an intelligent manner the woman dares to correct Jesus from down on the ground: «Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ table».
Her faith is worthy of admiration. Surely at the Father’s table everyone can be fed: the children of Israel and also the pagan dogs. Jesus seems to be thinking only about the «lost sheep» of Israel, but she too is a «lost sheep». The One Sent by God can’t just belong to the Jews. He needs to belong to everyone and be for everyone.
Jesus gives in when faced by the woman’s faith. His response reveals both his humility and his greatness: «Woman, you have great faith! Let your desire be granted». This woman discovers that God’s mercy doesn’t exclude anyone. The Good Father is above the ethnic and religious barriers that we humans have set up.
Jesus recognizes the woman as a believer though she lives in a pagan religion. He even finds in her a «great faith», not the small faith of his disciples whom he’s chided more than once as «you of little faith». Any human being can come to Jesus confidently. He knows how to recognize their faith though they live outside of the Church. They will always find in him a Friend and a Teacher of life.
We Christians need to rejoice that Jesus keeps attracting so many people today who live outside of the Church. Jesus is bigger than all our institutions. He keeps doing much good, even for those who have left our Christian communities.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf