Mt 15:21-28 Acknowledging and Apologizing
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At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! ...He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
I love this reading! It highlights something long ago forgotten: faith overcomes hurt feelings; truth trumps false compassion. If someone spoke like the Lord today…they would be crucified! Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Crucify Him! If this incident had been videotaped…oh my goodness! What would we say about Jesus? “How dare you speak to a woman like that! You called her a dog??? You are such a fake! You are a phony baloney! You hypocrite! Now I know what you are really made of! Now I have seen the real side of you!”
In the Lord’s case we would be wrong in condemning him, just like we were wrong two thousand years ago. In her case we would be right in justifying her, just like He did, two thousand years ago, in recognizing her tremendous faith.
I have heard some theologians explain this passage away by saying the Lord had a bad day, or that he was only human. Or that the Lord did not understand that He needed to save non-Jews. How horribly ridiculous! Why can’t we admit the truth? That is, sometimes the truth is painful because our pride gets hurt; and our pride hurts because it is skin deep.
If someone today spoke like Jesus yesterday they would be crucified, as He was two thousand years ago. But if someone today spoke like the Canaanite woman of long ago, then they would be glorified, as she was two thousand years ago. And that’s the problem: no one speaks like her today! The problem isn’t with people speaking like the Lord. The problem is with people responding like the woman. In other words, very few people have that (her) kind of faith!
This woman’s faith was the size of a mustard seed. And for a mustard seed to grow, it needs to be fertilized. And we know what fertilizer is made from: poop that is thrown at us!
The Lord grew in stature every time his enemies swung mud at him. Faith grows in adversity, like it or not. And most of us don’t like it! But it’s true: faith overcomes hurt feelings and truth trumps false compassion. We love the Lord because, while his foes swung at him, he didn’t swing back. He didn’t act like those we know.
The man at the window of Chic-Fil-A, and at the center of a growing storm, acknowledges he made a mistake. Just recently, he apologized for his actions. The problem with his apology is that it wasn’t immediate. It was done long after he left the restaurant, posted his video, received a ton of negative press and lost his job. There is nothing wrong with apologizing. But do it quickly! Accept your mistakes. The sincere of heart do it quickly, immediately. They react before others can.
The problem with “Rachael”, the young lady working at Chic-Fil-A, is that she didn’t want to meet with her bully immediately. I read that she needed some time. That’s unfortunate. Like I said before, only she could turn her story into a Gospel passage.
What makes Christ’s acknowledgement (of the Canaanite woman’s response) so beautiful is that it was done immediately, before any reactions, before any commentators, before anyone had a chance to run with the story. This is what made his comments sincere. This is how we know he was not insulting this woman; rather, He was putting her to the test. This is why Saint Matthew kept the story alive. And what makes the Canaanite woman’s faith so beautiful is her immediate, unwavering response of faith. Her faith, in the Lord, would not be shaken, regardless of what He called her.
How strong is your faith? What gets in the way of our faith? Answer: our feelings. We place feelings over faith; sentimentalisms over facts. The Lord never told a sinner, like we do: “Don’t worry about it”, or “So what?”, or “Who cares”. He told them the truth; He told them “Sin no more” and then immediately forgave them. He didn’t accept everyone; He loved everyone - sincerely, not superficially - by the skin off his back.
As a young man, I once felt offended by what a priest told me. I would not feel insulted by what a priest told me today, unless it was contrary to the teachings of the Church! If a priest tells me that I am a sinner, do I need to remind him that he is one too? If he tells me that what I did was awful, do I need to remind him of the awful things that priests have done? It’s all pride and very little faith.
Christ challenges each and every one of us. Priestly vows are just as difficult to live as spousal vows. But as hard as they are, they make us who we are. And we know what Christ wants for us is exactly what he was looking for from the Canaanite woman: an increase in unconditional faith and love.