My friend, Lea Anne, was writing an article about the Syro-Phoenician woman. She asked me to paint a picture of the woman. This story, left mostly untold throughout my Catholic schooling and from the church pulpit, is having much relevance today.
In the time of Jesus, women should not interrupt…should not make their needs public, but if they must, they should do it in a humble quiet way. In this scripture story because of a woman’s insistence, Jesus came to recognize the cognitive dissonance between his mission to Israel and what God would want.
I’ve seen images depicting this woman with outstretched hands of a beggar. Sadly I must admit that, for women, a lot has not changed since she confronted Jesus. So, at first, that is how I had planned to paint her… but my brush would not allow it.
Images of immigrant Hispanic women crossing the US border, desperate to give their children a better life, were flashing repeatedly across my TV screen. For their daring actions their children were being torn away from them. And yes, their children, caged and fed by the US government, were being treated like dogs. We still hear the pleading cries of women and children on our borders. Like Jesus, we cannot avoid the cognitive dissonance between our immigration policies and the Statue of Liberty.
Seeing and hearing the terror of both children and mothers prompted me to paint the hand of the Syro-Phoenician woman pointing to the dogs eating crumbs under a Eucharistic table. She is pointing for everyone to see the glaring incongruity of a people, claiming to be “one nation under God”.
Christianity was meant to be a WELCOME TABLE, with food and a place for all. But our current world is vividly pointing to glaring failures to use our sacred table and its abundance to feed those most in need. Instead today’s world and our country especially is an overloaded banquet table for privileged special guests and only crumbs falling below to hungry and starving masses.
Are we seeing the results of an important sacred story being left untold? Could it be the consequence of religious men guarding the Table of the Lord so that women are not allowed to preside there? Certainly women would have insisted that all God’s children were fed. When clerics exclude some of God’s people, whom they deem unworthy, from Eucharistic Food, do they justify and even symbolize the world’s unwillingness to share with less fortunate people and nations?
The woman I painted is not pleading! Instead she is insisting that she, a foreign woman, and her child deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity. Because of her insistence, Jesus changed his mind about his mission to include the Gentiles.
Our insistence today must not falter until our immigration policies and our religious policies are revised, implemented and enforced to ensure equality and justice for all.