August 20, Canaanite Woman

In today’s Gospel Story (Mt 15:21-28) a Canaanite woman asks Jesus to heal her daughter. The disciples try to send her away because she is not “one of them”. Jesus agrees and tries to send her away, but she persists. He sees her faith and realizes his Father sends him to everybody without exception. He grants her request.

This Story says a lot, depending on my openness. Like us, Jesus was on a journey coming to know himself and his role in life. In the Story he comes to know more what his Father is sending him to do — live his love for everybody. This tells me to live our Father’s love for everybody too. My concern is not how other people conduct their lives, but how open I am to living our Father’s love with them as they are. The Story tells me how I am called to live, not how I am to demand others live so I can feel comfortable and in control. As I try to follow Jesus, it is clear there is no sense of control, or even safety, only of being open to the Spirit.

In the Story Jesus’ disciples wanted to keep the woman away because “she is not one of us”, she doesn’t live as we do (which, of course, would be  the only right way to live.) Jesus tried to get rid of the artificial separation and welcome people in, while his disciples wanted to keep building fences to keep “others” out. Am I building fences so I can feel smugly good about myself? Can I accept that I don’t have all the answers and am wandering just like everybody else? Do I believe God loves me just as I am with all my shortcomings, faults, and failures, just like everybody else? Can I help other folks know God loves them just as they are?

There is the Canaanite woman herself. She persists, and Jesus says, “Great is your faith”. Is my faith great, is it real, or is it an act I put on? She came to Jesus with the urgent request to do something deeply personal in her life. How many people do I know that are hurting and have their own urgent requests to God, by any name or no name, and somehow hope for something to change for the better? What about people who claim to have all the answers about everything, or who live a spirit of anger? Basically, am I willing to be led to some uncomfortable situations to live our Father’s love? Jesus shows us our Father’s love for each of us as we are is absolutely unconditional. Can I accept this love in my own life? Can I live it, or do I just go through the motions and talk about it? Is it an operational value for me or just a stated value?

Jesus listens to the the woman, an outsider, someone on the peripheries, and learns from her. Can I listen to folks I keep on my peripheries, folks I just don’t understand or really like, either up close and personal, or because the institution/system says they are living wrong? Can I learn from them another way God is showing us who God is? How many folks “on the peripheries” live the same depth of faith that the Canaanite woman has, even though they have no use or interest for religious words or ideas? Can I understand that everyone of us, myself included, just wants to be accepted and loved as we are? I know what it is like for someone to be told they are worthless, wrong, not worth paying attention to. Do I want to inflict that sort of pain and suffering on them, even allegedly in the name of God? Is my faith great enough to recognize grace happening in my life even through folks I would keep on the peripheries?

History shows Jesus’ disciples grew in their understanding of what it meant for them to live as his disciples. Their journey was long and difficult. Can I accept this sort of journey in my own life here and now, or do I just want to look like I’m doing it? Jesus and his disciples grew and changed. Am I willing to do the same? Can I look at myself through the eyes of the Spirit and see where grace is calling me, or do I want to stay on a superficial level? Can I hear Jesus saying to me, “great is your faith”, or do I just want to keep pretending?

We hear the Gospel Stories in our life as it is happening. With all that is going on in my life these days I find myself questioning and wondering. I would like the faith of the Canaanite woman, but don’t know if I’m capable of that. I’m coming to realize these current events are gifts in themselves, offering me the opportunity to re-evaluate. I feel a new sense of freedom and peace. I hear a lot of “you shouldn’t feel that way” (because you make me feel uncomfortable), etc. In other words, I am not accepted as I am. This is not a good feeling, and can be very damaging, Do I want to make others feel this way? As difficult and lonely as all this is, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m coming to recognize Jesus happening in many different and unexpected ways. Vietnam is having a significant impact, most of it pretty good. Things from my past are falling into place in unexpected ways, showing Jesus was happening there, and I wouldn’t be where I am now without them. Wonderful people are in my life, some who have been there for a while, and some who are recent arrivals. Things are as they need to be, and for this I am very grateful. People may make the journey with me, nobody can make the journey for me.  Another example of “we got this”. Grace is real.

Faith does not mean believing in doctrines, which vary among traditions. Faith cuts across all traditions and cultures, yet happens in them. It is a commitment to live in a relationship of openness, trust, and willingness, willing grow and act. Is my faith strong enough?  Just  wandering and wondering . .  .    Just sayin . .  .