In Sunday’s gospel lesson, we will hear of a Canaanite woman who seeks healing for her daughter from Jesus. She calls out after him, repeatedly, even as Jesus’ disciples try to shush her and send her away. The woman is undeterred.
Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” It was a common belief that the Messiah was only the liberator of the Jewish people, not all people. The woman was undeterred.
Jesus said, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” Canaanites and Israelites were not exactly on good terms, as you can tell by Jesus calling the woman a “dog,” a common slur in that time. The woman was undeterred.
The woman continued to engage Jesus for the sake of her daughter, and Jesus continued to engage her. A Canaanite woman and an Israeli man engaging in this way was scandalous. This interaction would have made Jesus ritually unclean. But the woman was undeterred, and so was Jesus.
After this mutual push and pull, Jesus exclaimed, “Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And the woman’s daughter was healed in that instant.
Some say this was a moment of conversion for Jesus, when his view of himself and his mission expanded. Others say he was intentionally raising common distorted beliefs in order to dismiss them. Perhaps he was pushing the woman to claim her own voice, her own power.
Whatever the truth of the situation, what is clear is that the woman was undeterred by societal norms, and so was Jesus. The woman was driven by love for her daughter. Jesus was driven by love for God, and so, love for all of God’s children. Love is not deterred by artificial, human-constructed boundaries and boxes. Love is persistent. Love is even fierce when it needs to be. Love is willing to endure insults and suffering to achieve its ends. Love empowers both mercy and justice.
About who or what in your life are you undeterred? About what or who are you relentless, refusing to be dismissed by insult or silenced by injury? Who or what evokes your fierce love?
Is there a fire in your belly that wants more of you---your attention, your time, your effort?
Are these questions hard to answer? Does that fire in your belly feel more like just a spark or even indigestion?! If so, perhaps there is need to spend time in prayer, in reflection on Scripture, or in silence, just listening. Ask the Holy Spirit to clarify your purpose, your mission in this season of your life.
You are here, in this exact place in your life, with purpose and mission. God is undeterred by your mistakes and imperfections. God is undeterred by your distractions and by your resistance. The Spirit whispers again and again the question the poet Mary Oliver asked, “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”