STILL UNDER THE TABLE
There was a time when….not all women were equal in Jesus’ eyes….when he too needed his vision corrected….and he allowed a woman to make him see his own, dare we say, “hypocrisy” and theologically blind idolatry.
Pope Francis has won the hearts of the people, it is true, but perhaps not their minds. His leadership style is a model of mercy for all. But where justice and equality is concerned he too, has a blind spot or perhaps he prefers casting a blind eye.
Like Jesus in the story of the Syrophoenician woman, Francis is afraid/reluctant to remove the doctrinal ills that restrain the daughters of the church, seeing women as some kind of foreign/refugees begging for a place at the tables within the catholic tradition. Like Jesus, Pope Francis uses patriarchal rationalizations, a kinda, “I would if I could” reasoning,….even offering a suggestion of waiting until the time is right, until the matter is thoroughly studied for theological correctness.
The Syrophoenician woman, viewed by Jesus’ followers as an intruder, would not be put off by Jesus’ self justifications. While he proclaimed a table and kingdom that was all-inclusive, she overturned his favorite divine banquet table metaphor. she compared Jesus’ treatment of her and people like her, as casting crumbs to dogs under the table. She was a radical artist with her words and Jesus and his followers certainly got the picture.
Did the people gasp at her brazenness? Were they waiting in horrified anticipation for a solemn apology. Did Jesus’ pubic chastisement on behalf of Judaism’s long practiced beliefs in discriminatory status as the chosen people of God sound at all racist/sexist even sinful to their ears? Jesus’ put down did not deter this woman’s faith and determination.
Jesus realized apologies would’t cut it, actions would. He publicly changed his mind, praised the faith and courage of the woman, and promised that her daughter would be freed of her infirmities. Thanks to this woman, Jesus could shed his blind eye and see the kingdom of god with a much broader view. The story was meant to change the hearts, minds and actions of his early judeo christian followers who were dealing with the challenges of their global world. If Jesus could do it so could they, and perhaps even Francis in our time too.
That nameless woman represents all the women and their children still suffering the exclusion and participation in the divine banquet intended for all. She reminds us of what is possible when women expect/demand more respect, and won’t take no for an answer.