Friends, our Gospel for today, the story of Jesus’ conversation with the Syro-Phoenician woman, is one of those famously problematic passages in the New Testament. This poor woman, a Canaanite, a foreigner, comes forward and tells Jesus of her daughter who is troubled by a demon. She prostrates herself at his feet, but Jesus says, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”
Of course, the woman responds with one of the best one-liners in the Scriptures, almost all of which otherwise belong to Jesus himself: “Lord, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s scraps.” At this point, Jesus praises her for her faith and cures her daughter.
What’s going on here is really interesting and provocative. The Syro-Phoenician woman is being invited into a life of discipleship, into the following of Jesus. She is resisted, not because Jesus is having a bad day, but because he wants the strength of her faith to show itself.