In the Lectionary

August 20, Ordinary 20A (Matthew 15:10–28; Romans 11:1–2a, 29–32)

Give me your tired, your poor, those you consider dogs.

Jesus leaves familiar, comfortable territory and people—the disciples and the Pharisees—to enter a sort of red-light district, a place most people would not dare to go. Going there is socially unacceptable; it’s where the so-called outcasts, unclean, and undesirables live. But we discover that the outsider finds a place on the inside of the heart of God.

Being both a Canaanite and a woman is a double whammy. Yet the Canaanite woman is not afraid to confront this Jewish man named Jesus. He’s in her neighborhood now, and she has a desperate need—her daughter is tormented by a demon. What mother would not want her child healed? She goes against social and religious norms for the purpose of receiving healing for her child. She speaks up and out to this man she calls “Son of David” for mercy, not knowing what his response will be. She takes a stand, a risk, and crosses a borderline.

At first, Jesus doesn’t even respond. But the disciples do, taking the opportunity to show their bias when they say, “send her away.” The woman, to whom the text gives no name, receives no apparent compassion from the disciples. She is a foreign woman; they have no concern for her kind; they want to build a wall. And Jesus doesn’t appear to react much better—he seems concerned only with exclusivity in favor of the house of Israel.