By Fr. Don Braukmann/St. Philip, Bemidji & St. Charles, Pennington
A few weeks ago at Mass, we heard one of my favorite pro-life stories from the Gospel of Matthew (15:21-28).
A Canaanite woman pleads with Jesus to heal her daughter who is tormented by a demon. The disciples insist on sending her away claiming she is just a nuisance. Jesus himself remains mute for a moment then seemingly insults her by saying, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” Through it all the woman remains steadfast in faith and determination. She will do whatever it takes to bring her daughter relief.
Of course, we know “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say. Jesus sees her faith and cures the woman’s daughter.
At the time there was a great deal going against the mother. First, she was a woman, a second class citizen in the eyes of many; second, she was a Canaanite, an enemy of the Jews of that day.
So, in short, she was rejected by society, treated as a dog, and there was little value to her life. Her voice was not one to be heard, but routinely dismissed.
Jesus took the opportunity to teach a valuable lesson. A desperately needed lesson 2,000 years ago and just as urgently needed today.
The Scriptures suggest the disciples of the Lord never quite got Christ’s message when it came to the dignity of each and every person no matter their heritage, their geographic location or their perceived value to society.
I would suggest we still don’t get it.
To Jesus Christ, every life is sacred and has a purpose and value because every life reflects the beauty of God’s face.
This includes every human life: the life of the Canaanite woman, the Muslim man, the Jewish child, the Hindu Elder, the Buddhist family.
The black, red, brown, yellow or white man, woman or child. Adolph Hitler’s life was sacred, so was Osama bin Laden’s. The ISIS warrior beheading Christians? Sacred.
The person with same sex attraction. The transgender person. The grand leader of the KKK. The woman sitting in the abortion clinic waiting room. The parent who abuses their children by beating or neglect. The politician who chooses opinion polls over her faith. The priest who devastates lives by abusing the innocent. The bully who pushes and pushes till their victim kills himself. The immigrant trying to save the life of his family by running full throttle to the American border. The hate filled person who denies the holocaust ever happened. The driver of the car in front of us who doesn’t have a clue. The democrat who despises the republican and the republican who despises the democrat. The gang who waves the confederate flag and tells African Americans to go back home. The shooter in Las Vegas who erased lives from the face of the earth in his sickness. All are sacred.
Sadly, Jesus came 2,000 years ago to bring freedom but we didn’t want to be free!
On the last day, Jesus will say, “show me your hands.” And when we stretch them out will they be in chains curled into a fist because of hate and anger ... or will they be open with scars of love that are deep and fresh?
Folks, our blood is red. We love. We fail. We struggle. We make bad choices and we make good ones.
Some belong in prison. Some live in their own prison.
Yet, in the end, God is god of all whether we admit it or not, like it or not, preach it or not.
Isn’t it amazing that God has not wiped us out? How tired God must be of us, it seems to me. But who still comes to us each time we step up to the altar or bend a knee? Jesus, the Savior, the Prince of Peace, the King of all creation!
God does not tire. God chases us down, no matter where we live or who we are. God chases us down and loves us to death.