Persisting in times of challenge
The Scripture reading this Sunday speaks to us of the inclusivity of Jesus to all persons. This Gospel challenges us on many levels. Jesus and his disciples decide to take some time out from their ministry, as they are tired and needing rest. When a Canaanite woman approaches them to see Jesus to ask him to heal her daughter, she finds her request challenged and at first rejected by Jesus. She persists, and still finds that she is rejected a second time, but she does not give up. For a third time she even goes further in her challenge to him to grant her request. She takes him on and stands her ground. It is only then that Jesus responds “Woman, great is your faith” and her daughter is healed. Is our faith strong enough to persist in times of challenge? Do we give up too easily when answers do not come straight away?
On a second level we see Jesus confining his ministry to one group of people not wanting to extend this to others: “I was only sent to the House of Israel”. It is not until she challenges him “that even the dogs eat the crumbs” that he responds. The woman’s persistence opens Jesus to extend his ministry to all people. How are we disciples of Jesus? Are we inclusive in our faith to include those who may think differently to us? How do we respond when someone challenges our beliefs and faith stance? Are we open to the Holy Spirit impacting on our lives?
Thirdly, how do we feel about our understanding of Jesus in this Gospel. He certainly responds in a very different manner to what we would expect.
Jesus is described as ‘teacher’ in the gospels. We know that a teacher who is passionate about their vocation also see themselves as ‘learner’.
How true is this of Jesus and the disciples who learn from the woman. This Gospel reminds us that the Church is constantly entering new ground unsettling our established pattern of thought and leading us in encountering Jesus in new ways.