Outside the Church—Sunday of the Canaanite Woman

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, one God, Amen.

The Lord withdrew, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, into the region of Tyre and Sidon, which are to the north in Lebanon.  He had previously commanded his disciples, a few chapters earlier,

Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans.
But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons.  Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:5–8

Christ commands his disciples to stay within their own community, within Israel, yet he goes to a place outside.  Why is this?  For the disciples, the Lord sends them out to tell the people of Israel that their Messiah, their Christ, has come bringing with him the Kingdom of Heaven, this would make little sense to Gentiles.  But earlier in the chapter for today’s Gospel reading, the Pharisees were offended by the Lord’s words.

Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.

Matthew 15:11

The disciples told him of the offence he had caused (v. 12).  And he told them,

Every plant which my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.
Let them alone.  They are blind leaders of the blind.  And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.

vv. 13–14

And to make his point, he withdrew to Tyre and Sidon: not to preach but to demonstrate to the disciples—to you and to me!—that faithfulness can come from anywhere.  “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David;” cries out the Canaanite Woman, “my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.”  She did not have the blindness of the Pharisees who had the Messiah before them but could not recognise him, she did not eat according to the Law of Moses yet the words which came from her mouth did not defile her; despite lacking everything possessed by the people of God, by Israel, she was faithful and because of this and as a sign to his disciples, the Lord heals the daughter.

And I consider my life: do I recognise faithfulness when I see it outside the people of God, outside Israel, outside the Church, or do I ask Christ to send them away?  Yes, the disciples were initially sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” but that was before Christ defeated death, sin and idolatry.  Once we have the Resurrection, once Christ is shown as victor over the powers of death, the powers of sin, the powers of idolatry, he commands us to go to all nations, πάντα τὰ ἔθνη,

All authority has been given to me in Heaven and on Earth.
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.  Amen.

Matthew 28:18–20

Let us then, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, rejoice when we find faithfulness outside the boundaries of the Church and bring to them the Gospel of the Kingdom, that the power of idolatry has been obliterated, that we can be freed from the power of sin, that even the power of death cannot hold us because Christ reigns and brings new hope, new Life, into our world and we can share in his Life by being faithful to him.  Let us learn to see Christ in all we meet and, out of love for them, let them see the Kingdom of God through our love for them.  Let us, dear brothers and sisters, be true Christians.

To our crucified and risen God and Saviour Jesus Christ be all glory, honour and worship, together with his unoriginate Father and the All-holy, Good and Life-giving Spirit.  Amen.

Brethren, you are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will live in them and move among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore come out from them, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch nothing unclean; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty. Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.
— Second Corinthians 6:16–18, 7:1

At that time, Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
— Matthew 15:21–28