This Gospel story can shock us,
until we look closely at it.
The stories we’ve heard for several Sundays now,
are all about the Lord teaching the Apostles,
stretching their thinking and their faith.
Two weeks ago, the Lord showed the Apostles
that they really could feed many thousands,
with a few loaves of bread, and two fish.
Last week, the Lord came to the Apostles, on water.
His purpose was not to get in the boat,
but to get them out of the boat: to stretch their faith.
This week, the lesson continues.
Let’s be clear: Jesus did not disrespect this woman.
We know Jesus welcomed women to his inner circle.
A few chapters earlier,
he healed the woman with a hemorrhage.
We also know he crossed social barriers:
he ate with sinners; he chose a tax-collector—
Matthew, who wrote this story!—as one of his key men.
It’s not because she was a Gentile.
Again, a few chapters earlier,
Jesus healed the servant of the Centurion—a Gentile.
So this isn’t about barriers for Jesus.
It’s about the barriers the Apostles have.
Notice, at first, the Lord remains silent;
he waits to see what the Apostles will say.
What have they learned?
And they say, “Send her away.”
Jesus’ next words, which sound so harsh,
aren’t about her, but about the Apostles.
He’s putting into words what they are probably thinking,
when he says, “Not for you,” “Not for dogs.”
Because then, she replies:
"Please, Lord…even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters."
That is key! Remember what the Apostles received,
after feeding the many thousands?
They got the scraps: twelve baskets’ full!
Do you recall what Jesus said, last week,
to the Apostles?
"O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Now notice what he says to this so-called “dog”:
"O woman, great is your faith!
The Lord is not knocking this woman;
he’s trying to knock down the barriers
the Apostles still have.
Now, let’s put ourselves in this story.
Maybe you feel like the Canaanite woman:
someone in the Church mistreated you.
The Apostles pushed her away, but she kept coming.
You keep coming too! Don’t let anyone send you away.
Let’s look at the Apostles.
These Gospel stories make it clear,
the Church’s leadership has always been
weak, sinful, thick-headed men! Me included.
As a pastor, I need this lesson.
The Apostles had Jesus in the flesh—
and they missed the point;
what are the odds I’m going to miss it? Pretty good!
So, please, pray for us priests, for the bishops.
Please forgive our failures;
and most of all, please don’t let
our various flaws and sins
keep you from the Lord.
We need to be realistic, but also confident.
God can do awesome, miraculous,
world-changing things through any of us!
So what are our barriers?
What do we often say? “Oh, God, I’m not worthy!”
You know what God says back?
“Yeah—what’s your point?”
We should also ask:
are we—our lives, our example—
a barrier that keeps others from coming to Jesus?
Are there people around us, in our world,
whom we look down upon?
If they came here, to church,
would it be because we encouraged them?
Would we want them
to sit somewhere else—not by us?
In this Year of the Eucharist,
let me make this point:
if we have barriers against other people;
if we look down on them,
if we refuse to do our part—
for conversion of ourselves,
and to seek reconciliation with others—
then we should ask ourselves:
are we ready to come to the Lord in the Eucharist?
Because Jesus doesn’t put up barriers.
He call us to holiness, yes;
and that holiness can be very demanding;
it may seem like a barrier.
But that is not of his making.
Jesus is ready, in the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
to reach out, to restore and heal,
anyone separated from him by grave sin.
So there’s no barrier…on his part.
When we represent Christ,
let us speak the truth,
but let us do so invitingly,
not pushing people away!
And let us be as ready to reconcile as he is.
We heard Isaiah predict that all people
would come to the Sacrifice in God’s House.
What we do here, at Mass—the Eucharist—
is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prediction.
We heard Paul, talk about drawing everyone to Christ.
We look around, we see our world isn’t there yet.
Still, so many barriers;
so many yet to be welcomed to his House.
So: who is God sending, to break down the barriers,
to draw people to his House, to Christ?
You know: It’s you and me!