The confrontation between the Canaanite woman and Jesus astonishes us. Jesus seems DOGS so rude and she is so persistent. He implies she is a housedog and she says, ‘even housedogs get the scraps left over’. It is as though he alters course just because of this strong woman. He states his conviction: he was sent to ‘the lost sheep of the House of Israel’. But he is ready to adapt his plan in the face of this woman’s insistence.
Can we force God to do what we want? We do not have to answer with a diplomatic ‘yes and no’. The answer is simply ‘yes’. Jesus has made it abundantly clear: ‘ask and you will receive’. Well, what happens to God’s plan? ‘Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done!’ God does have a plan. He wants a kingdom of justice and peace where every one of his people finds all they need in this life to prepare for the fullness that will be revealed in the next.
But he does not go into details. He leaves these up to us. ‘Whatever you decide on earth will be approved in heaven. Whatever you reject on earth will also be rejected in heaven’. What he gives us is the vision and the way towards it but how we get there is up to us. For each of us it will be different.
In 1980 we had a vision for Zimbabwe, a vision of justice and peace for each one and for all of us as a nation. How that vision would be realised was up to us. Forty years on that vision is intact. But the way we tried to achieve it has led us nowhere. Today there is no justice. There is no peace. In a land of plenty people are struggling day by day simply to survive.
And if a woman, or a man, does protest and cry out persistently they are not listened to. In fact they are hammered. The awful truth is: justice and peace does not come without a mighty struggle in which many suffer and some die. It happened in Ireland 100 years ago and it is happening in Belarus today. There, in the city of Minsk, people are saying ‘we are no longer afraid’. They have crossed a threshold as the Canaanite woman did all those years ago.
16 August 2020 Sunday 20A Is 56: 1,6-7 Rom 11:13-15, 29-32 Matt 15:21-28