Faith beyond Boundaries
Matthew 15: 21-28“Woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (v. 28)
The passage deals with Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite Woman. We see Jesus leaving his usual location of ministry and crossing the boundary of the familiar Palestinian territory to a strange territory inhabited by a people of different faith and culture. As a Jew, sharing with the prejudices of the fellow Jews of Palestine regarding the Canaanites, Jesus too is seen holding on to the exclusivist view of salvation limited within the boundaries of Palestine. The Canaanites were the polemic opposites of the Jews as the former is considered as a people destined to doom because of their lack of knowledge of the God of Israel. But the understanding and faith of the woman of Tyre and Sidon about the ways of Yahweh is even surprising for Jesus himself. The daughter of the woman is said to be tormented by demon. Demon can be explained by analyzing the socio-cultural location of the life of the woman and her poor family. They were people living under the Ro-man yoke and suffering constant deprival in life as they were not allowed to have access to the vital life sus-taining resources around. The spirituality of the place also supported such exploitations of the lives of the ordinary people. There was little spiritual resources available for the people to look beyond the fatalistic un-derstanding and experience of life. They were also frequently extorted through the enormous taxation system of the Empire, which snatched away the meager earnings that was the very livelihood for the people.
Jesus’ renown might have crossed the borders of Palestine and reached the Canaanite territory as the em-bodiment of God’s presence working wonders in the lives of the people. His loving presence and compas-sionate care for the ailing lives made the demons flee from people. The woman approaches Jesus with great hope as she could see Jesus as a new spiritual resource from which she can draw strength to empower the shattered life of her daughter and her family. But the encounter takes an embarrassing turn all on a sudden as Jesus seems to turn down the request of the woman by saying that salvation is something related to the house of Israel. The perseverance of the woman is something commendable as she was not willing to leave Jesus on his discouraging reply to her plea for help. She knocked at the door with greater hope as we see her kneeling down and shouting for help. Now the reply was not only discouraging but also very much breaking. Jesus’ comparison of the women to the dogs was in fact a slap on the cheek for the woman. But she was per-sistent in her faith enough to show him her other cheek by saying that even the dogs deserve a fair treatment and have the right to food falling from the table of the children. Usually faith is taken as piety by most of us. Faith is defined as unquestioning submission to the fate. But the woman sees faith in a different perspective as the persistent knock at the door of the divine to initiate a response that could change the course of life. If faith is now working such wonders of bringing new life and vigor into our life there is no point in holding on to a dead faith. The faith that could be encountered at place where it is usually not expected invokes sincere appreciation from Jesus. “Woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Lord, help us to live our faith with boldness and see it works wonders for us and our neighbours. Amen
Rev. Jacob P Thomas, Dharma Jyothi, Vidya Peeth, Faridabad