Today’s gospel reading sounds like a bit of a tough one:
Jesus went to the district of Tyre.
He entered a house and wanted no one to know about it,
but he could not escape notice.
Soon a woman whose daughter had an unclean spirit heard about him.
She came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth,
and she begged him to drive the demon out of her daughter.
He said to her, “Let the children be fed first.
For it is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied and said to him,
“Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.”
Then he said to her, “For saying this, you may go.
The demon has gone out of your daughter.”
When the woman went home, she found the child lying in bed
and the demon gone.
Did Jesus really just call this woman a “dog”? This has been troubling for many people who have read the text. However, it does highlight for us some of the things that we lose in simply reading a Biblical text.
Obviously, Jesus’ statement is not enough to send the woman away. But rather, she persists. Was there something in his tone of voice that we miss in reading the text? Was this simply a common form of speech? Or, do we perhaps need to change our view of Jesus a bit? Perhaps we have been lulled to sleep by our understanding of the gentleness of Jesus.
At any rate, it is difficult text. Yet it should not obscure the fact that Jesus does answer the request of this woman who persists. Perhaps we are a bit too fast to give up when God doesn’t answer our prayer requests immediately. And, that is something we can ponder today.