Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Faith Expression of the Marginalized
Vs.27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”
St. Matthew in chapter 15 beautifully contrasts the traditional Jewish faith, the faith of the Pharisees with the faith of the Gentile Canaanite women. Jesus rebukes the faith of the Pharisees and the scribes that blindly hold on to the traditions and at the same time break the commandment of God (v.2,3). He calls them as hypocrites who honor God with their lips but their hearts are far from Him. In v. 21 Matthew shifts the focus of narration from Gennesaret, a supposedly fertile land yet where Jesus meets people worshipping in vain and practices a faith away from the will of God, to Tyre and Sidon, a seemingly notorious land yet to find the faith of Canaanite women which Jesus acknowledges as ‘great’.
Her faith expression transcends the boundaries and limitations. The primary hindrance for her to come to Jesus is her identity as a Canaanite. The age old conflict between the Jews and the Canaanites widened the gap. They were called gentiles and kept away beyond the boundaries. There were no social interaction between the two. This woman’s faith transcended the boundaries of racial discrimination. Her sexual identity or the very fact that she was a woman became her second hindrance. There was a Jewish prayer that considered women equal to dog. So for a woman, to come to a Jewish rabbi in public was a challenge which she overcomes.
When she comes to Jesus she faces the most difficult challenge. She was for a moment rejected by Jesus who is her last refuge. The Jewish exclusivism held the view that they are the only chosen race and they are the only children of God. They believed that there is no salvation outside Judaism. So they were seen as dogs, the expression Jesus borrows to sarcastically reproach their exclusivist thought. Jesus through His conversation with the woman was having a dialogue with the exclusivist mindset of the disciples who limits Jesus to the Jewish boundaries. Her faith in Jesus was so deep and her need was so intense that she persisted. And she became a touchstone of the great faith on which we need to test our faith.
God, who loved the world, help us to transcend the boundaries in faith and to acknowledge the greatness in the faith of the identified marginalized. Amen.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
Faith is not to marginalize others but to incorporate all, even the last, in love.
Very Rev Dr. D Philip, Thiruvalla
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church