“Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.”
In the passage leading up to this reading he Lord and His disciples had a run-in with the Pharisees, the leaders of the Jews. They had complained about the fact that Jesus’ apostles did not adhere to strict standards of ritual cleanliness. Jesus rightly called them hypocrites. They were the ones who were unclean within. On the outside they looked and talked like righteous men. They followed the Law to the letter. They held all the right moral values and espoused all the right moral and religious causes.
The Pharisees were so proud of their righteousness that they forget they were sinners in need of God. They also lost sight of God who desires to extend grace, love and mercy. They despised the people that found these attributes in Jesus: prostitutes, tax-collectors, lepers and sinners. The Pharisees also despised the pagans such as the woman who came to Jesus to ask for help for her demon-possessed daughter. Jesus appeared to insult her by referring to her as a dog. That was the term the 1st Century Jews applied to pagans. But it was not offered as an insult; Jesus never insults or turns away anyone who earnestly seeks His help. He was testing her faith. She recognized Him not just as a miracle worker or a good man, but worshipped Him as God incarnate. Jesus did not turn her away, but rewarded her faith and persistence.
Many in the Church are like the Pharisees. They are zealous about the need for Christian moral values in our society to the point that it seems they are malicious and angry. While we must never condone, promote or ignore immorality, we must never forget to extend mercy, grace, kindness and love to sinners. Many of them seem happy and care free, but they are to be pitied: they are covering up a life of hate, abuse and self-loathing. They are never satisfied with what they have for they are ever seeking more. And their end is eternal separation from God unless they are touched by His love incarnated in every believer.