Reflection and Prayer for Ninth Sunday after Trinity – 17th August 2014 (Proper 15)

Matthew 15.(10-20)21-28
Loving across the boundaries

The story of a Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus is not a comfortable one to hear. It seems out of character for Jesus to refuse to heal the child of a distressed woman and unlike him to use such dismissive words to anyone.

At first Jesus seems to be struggling within himself. His compassion and love would move him to respond with healing. But he is also aware of his calling as God’s Chosen One from and for God’s chosen people.

Perhaps partly asking himself the question, Jesus says “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel?”.

Jesus knows that his critics would reject this woman and would consider him unclean for having spoken to her. He voices their thoughts saying, “It isn’t fair to throw the children’s food to the dogs”.

Her quick, witty retort that even the dogs eat what the children don’t want releases the tension and we can perhaps imagine Jesus’ smile and delight in finding such faith in an “outsider” when it had been missing among the “chosen people”. His love and compassion flow freely once more and the daughter is healed.

Jesus demonstrates vividly that while he might be ritually unclean (by speaking to a gentile woman) his words and actions are loving and healing, reflecting God’s gracious acceptance of all people.

We too are called to love beyond all boundaries, ignoring social niceties and prejudices because no-one is ever outside the reach of God’s steadfast love.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for your healing love which reaches out to all people. Help us to love as you do, overcoming society’s boundaries and our own prejudices, so that we see everyone around us as your beloved children. Amen.