Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

Order 'Evolution for the Catholic Student' - Click on the image above

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Being a Child

Being a Child

This past Sunday’s Gospel is one of the more challenging to understand. It recounts Jesus’s encounter with a Canaanite woman who has come to him to ask for healing for her daughter. Jesus’s response is coarse to our modern ears. He tells her that He has been sent only to the lost sheep of Israel and that it is not right to give the food of the children to the dogs. The woman responds that even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from their masters’ tables, to which Jesus says, “Great is your faith,” and He grants her request.
Why does Jesus initially seem unwilling to heal this woman’s daughter? Why does He make reference to children and to dogs? I remember seeing a movie about Jesus many years ago in which this scene is portrayed as Jesus being taught a lesson by this woman. It apparently expands His compassion and refocuses His mission.
Well, that didn’t sit well with me, so when I got my hands on the Catena Aurea, this was the first passage I looked up. I was eager to see what the Fathers and Doctors of the Church had to say. Here is my interpretation of Sunday’s challenging Gospel, informed by what I found.
There are a few things to remember. First, the miracles of Jesus are signs that point to who He is. He is not a magician, or a traveling sideshow. He is God, come to redeem the world. Also, the Jews of the time divided people into the Children and the goyim (dogs) – the pagans. The woman understood that, so Jesus was not throwing an insult at her.
What is amazing is not that Jesus has a conversion experience, but that He invites this woman to become a child of God. Jesus, in this event, is eliciting faith from this woman. He is bringing salvation to her. Being a child, Jesus teaches us, is not about ethnicity, but about faith. When she approached Jesus, the woman had probably heard of this wonder-worker and hoped he could help her, like some traveling magician. But Jesus will have none of that. He challenges her to identify not with the dogs, but with the children. Her desperation over the condition of her daughter opens the woman to faith, with a little prodding from the Lord. Once she has faith, the healing of her daughter can take on its full meaning.
What, then, can we learn? Jesus is the great Healer, but He offers us much more than simply the answer to a problem. He invites us to be children; He calls us to faith; and through that Faith we are freed from bondage, as was the daughter of the woman in Sunday’s Gospel. May we have the humility and openness of the Canaanite woman, and like her, truly become children of God.