By Vicky Otto
The older I get, the more I admire the women we read about in the Gospels. Each, in their way, has taught me essential life lessons. Mary taught me the importance of saying yes to God. The women who stood at the crucifix demonstrated the importance of fidelity to relationships. And Mary Magdalene taught me about bravery, courage and speaking truth to power.
This weekend, I add the voice of the Canaanite woman in the Gospel that we hear proclaimed this week. A friend this week told me that when she read a reflection about her, the chapter was called “The Uppity Woman.” I have learned a lot from uppity women; this Sunday, the lesson is about tenacity, persistence and faith, even when faced with one obstacle after another.
This week’s Gospel can be challenging to proclaim, preach about, and listen to because the comments Jesus makes can be perceived as harsh and insensitive. It is important to note that Jesus’s words and actions to the Canaanite woman made sense for his time and culture. It does not make them right, yet it is the world in which Jesus and the woman meet.
This meeting of the two is the first lesson the woman offers; she shows up. She shows up knowing she is not welcomed or wanted; she is an outsider on the fringes of society. She does so because she wants to save her daughter. Nothing would keep her from reaching out to Jesus, even when the world seems to set up everything against her.
As the woman and Jesus conversed, the woman offered the next lesson, persistence. We don’t know why Jesus acted the way he did. Yet every time he tries to push her away, she returns, respectfully yet persistently. Her faith led her to believe there was enough for everyone, even the dogs. She wasn’t begging for a feast; she was begging for a crumb, knowing that crumb would save her daughter.
As she banters back and forth with Jesus, a writer noted that she was helping him learn about his vocation. Jesus was impressed with her vision and inspired by her tenacity. While he told the disciples that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, he now can embrace a vision of a table stretched to include a far more diverse group of diners.
I would like to believe that we each have the tenacity and persistence to reach out in faith the same way the Canaanite woman did. She is a true testament to our spirituality that God’s love knows no boundaries, and there is enough for everyone.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Vicky Otto is the executive director of the Precious Blood Spirituality Institute. She is also a Companion of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.