Sunday’s Gospel from the Book of Matthew always bothered me. Here you have a woman begging the Lord for help, begging, not for herself, but for the healing of her daughter.
And you have the Lord Jesus ignoring her and then brushing her off with this:
I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
I have read this passage many times and thought, “How hurtful that must have been. How much courage must this woman have had to go to Jesus through the crowd of those so unlike her, those who knew, knew, they were better than her, those who knew they were better because Jesus had even said He had come for them – not for dogs as herself.”
And then I’d always wonder with pain in my heart, “Why would Jesus, who is the One person who should have understood her pain, brush her off so badly?”
And then that negativity she must have felt from all those pressing in on her would have solidified as she asked again and Jesus’ response became even harsher.
It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.
But reading through this passage carefully, one discovers that Jesus never calls her a dog. He never put her down. He simply states things that most of us would have a hard time disagreeing with. I too would have a hard time giving food meant for my children to dogs, even if I loved the dogs. That doesn’t mean that I love the dogs any less, but that they would not appreciate the value of what they were given as thoroughly as the children would, that they would not grow and develop as the children would.
That may offend some dog lovers, but not many of even the most ardent dog lovers would have difficulty choosing their dogs over their children.
I also think Jesus meant this to show us something. Yes, the obvious points are that He is showing us that, if the lost sheep of the house of Israel don’t appreciate the food offered, His food will be given to others who do. He also shows us that, unlike a dog who will never become a child, all people are capable of becoming children of the House of Israel, and finally, He shows us that we must keep asking, that we must never give up when it comes to our faith and believing in God’s plan for us.
But there is more too.
I had said that the woman’s fears must solidify as she felt the negativity pressing in on her, but she never actually lets them do that. She values herself and her daughter enough to keep that negativity away. She does not value herself for what the crowd thinks of her, but of what she was made to be by God, the Mother of her little girl.
And it is only because she truly values herself that she is granted her desire.
What if that woman had believed she was a dog? What if that woman, had simply indulged in self-pity and hung her head ? What if that woman believed she was worthless as the lies the world tells each of us in unique ways? What if that woman had failed to value herself as God’s creation?
How does it make God feel when we put ourselves down? When we feel we are not good enough? When we hang our heads and walk away when things do not go as we had hoped?
Satan subtly works on our hearts and minds to wear away our self esteem. Sometimes it’s a parent who never loved enough. Sometimes it’s abuse or a man who used you and left you. Sometimes it’s cheap clothing or the commercials that make you think bodies were made to be displayed. Maybe it’s the songs on the radio that make you think sex and drugs and violence are the norm. Maybe it’s the little voice inside your head that just wears away with little things, a friend who doesn’t return a call quickly enough, a glance in the mirror showing you’re too big, a rejection from another job you’d love to have.
All of these things contribute to make you think you are a worthless dog. Jesus simply says, food for His children will not go to dogs. He is telling you to value yourself. To Love yourself as a creation of the Lord. He is telling you that it is when you value yourself, not for you, but for who the Master made you to be, that you will find Joy and Healing.
Read this passage again and this time see Jesus showing the world that, with appreciation for yourself as a unique creation of God, with a little of the gumption this woman had, with the willingness to appreciate and gather the little things like scraps from the table, you are capable of bringing great power to yourself and healing to those around you.
To reflect on all of the readings from Sunday, August 17, 2014, please click here.