JESUS CALLING THE CANAANITE WOMAN A “DOG” PROVES HE HAD A “MEAN” SIDE
Today’s Gospel is perplexing on a number of fronts: I’ll tackle two issues in this reflection.
- Why Tyre and Sidon?
When the stress of life gets too much, and people come to a point where they absolutely need a “release,” it sometimes happens that a small group of friends take a trip to “sin city” – Las Vegas – for a weekend, where “what happens in Las Vegas, stays in Las Vegas!” At least until Judgement day.
Tyre and Sidon were the “sin cities” of the region in Jesus’ day – the “unholy” part of the holy land. Did He and the disciples decide it was time for some fun at the slot machines? Hardly. But why did they go to Tyre and Sidon?
There is an excellent online resource that takes a certain theme or word in Scripture and traces all the references in Scripture that mention that theme or word called “Got Questions”.
This is part of the answer to the question: “What is the Significance of Tyre in the Bible,”:
Israel continued to share close ties with Tyre during King Ahab’s reign. Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, daughter of Ethbaal, king of Sidon, and their union led to the infiltration of pagan worship and idolatry in Israel (1 Kings 16:31). Both Tyre and Sidon were notorious for their wickedness and idolatry, which resulted in numerous denouncements by Israel’s prophets, who predicted Tyre’s ultimate destruction (Isaiah 23:1; Jeremiah 25:22; Ezekiel 26; 28:1–19; Joel 3:4; Amos 1:9–10; Zechariah 9:2–4).
Why did Jesus “withdraw” to these particular “sin cities”? I don’t know. My hunch is that he REALLY needed a break, and if you’ve been following the Gospel readings for the past few weeks, everytime He tried to get a break with His disciples, the crowds followed him…even when he crossed the sea in boats. He’d no sooner get out of the boat for his “break” and we read: “And he had compassion on the crowds…” and he was punching His card in the time clock again!
Jesus knew there’d be no “crowds” in Tyre and Sidon, so maybe that’s all the explanation that’s needed. There were no crowds, just one Canaanite woman in desperate straits who Jesus called a dog – sounds like that “break” Jesus was looking for was long overdue, eh?
2. With Jesus, “COMPASSION” trumps “IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE SCRIPTURES“
The faithfulness of Jesus to fulfilling the Word of God as made manifest in the writings of the prophets like Isaiah is clear throughout the New Testament. Jesus was keenly aware that the Messiah was to come to “the lost sheep of Israel” first; then once they “rejected” Him and put Him to death on the cross. the call would then go out to all people, from all backgrounds and nations, to hear and accept the Good News. We see this transpire in the Book of Acts, after Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, and Pentecost happened.
Some read this Gospel, and accuse Jesus of having a bit of a ‘mean streak’ the way He spoke to this poor desperate woman. Worse, she wasn’t seeking help for herself, but for another human being who she obviously loved and cared for very much – her daughter.
A mean streak in Jesus? Seriously? Total nonsense! But a good illustration how we can let our “human thinking” get in the way of what is truly of God and the Spirit – Love.
It is exactly the opposite, in fact, despite the constant concern that Jesus had that things happen in His life and ministry “in accordance with Scripture,” so that, as Jesus stated, “Scripture can not be broken” (John 10:35), yet His great love and compassion compelled Him to cure the pagan woman’s daughter anyways.
There is a “deep wisdom” that actually signifies that Jesus’ use of the word dog (Hebrew “Caleb”, also a person’s name in the Old Testament to which that wisdom connects) was a positive and prophetic one, but that’s beyond the scope of this reflection.
One should never assume bad intention from someone otherwise known to be caring and loving person without irrefutable evidence – the evil one has a way of guiding suspicious minds into the imaginary realm where the most amazing “evidence” can come to get to convince a person of a lie – fuelling accusations, and creating a breach in the relationship…little wonder one of the names for the devil is “accuser”
Behind every accusation is a person motivated by fear and focussed on self – the harm that was either ‘perceived to have been done’ or is ‘feared to be done’ based on the imaginary scenarios and understanding created in one’s imagination, piecing together what convinces us are logical grounds supporting the accusation.
What follows is not a discussion, but a series of pronouncements (judgements) that create discomfort, anxiety, hard feelings and often, a breach in the relationship as a result of the deep misunderstanding that has created a void filled with the confusion that comes from not seeing the truth, but relying on one’s speculations and false conclusions about the other person.
We are now living in the days of the great deception, creating such confusion and fear that the devil and his angels who waged war against heaven, against our blessed Mother and the Holy Family, is now attacking her children – us – and that attack comes as an attack on the family, on the community, on our most intimate and precious relationship.
“And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven saying: “Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of His Christ. For the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down— he who accuses them day and night before our God. 11They have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony. And they did not love their lives so as to shy away from death.” [Revelations 12:9-12].
Be careful not to separate yourself from those you love – and who love you – by convincing yourself of something following the flights of fearful fancies that results in making “an accusation against the brethren” as we strive to build a truly spiritual and loving community of people rooted in truth and committed to God. We must always seek understanding through dialogue that asks questions when there is uncertainty, rather than make pronouncements.
We will all experience “false accusations” in the days ahead – often from the least expected people. When they come, we must reject a “right and wrong” framework founded on two human wills/egos standing in opposition, and seek to imitate the meekness and humility of Jesus, and respond to false accusations as He did::
“And when He was accused by the chief priests and elders, He gave no answer.” [Matthew 27:12]
“Jesus, teach us how to truly be modest, meek and humble so we will never make what we believe to be an offense against us the reason to turn our attention away from You to ourselves; our desire for you to a desire for personal vindication or defence. May we, like You, let the truth of our words and sincerity of our actions stand and be sufficient to give us the confidence to weather all accusations and attacks from the evil one, who seeks only to divide what is united, break up what is whole, and destroy what is good.
Father, pour forth your Holy Spirit giving us the strength to persevere in faith, persisting in our calling upon you, like the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel reading, to never stop seeking the healing You offer through Your only begotten Son Jesus.” Amen.