The Gospel reading for this Sunday is Matt:15: (10-20), 21-28
.In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus has two tricky encounters, first with the Pharisees, then with a Canaanite woman, both of which seem to be linked by food. In fact, the link is deeper it’s about faith and membership of God’s people, the outcome of the encounters is something of a surprise.
The story of the Canaanite woman’s encounter with Jesus is not a comfortable one to hear, nor an easy one to understand. It seems out of character for Jesus to reject a distressed woman seeking healing for her child. Jesus does not usually use dismissive words to anyone or humiliate someone in the presence of others.
After the interaction with his critics, Jesus talks to his followers about what makes someone clean or unclean. He explains the teaching in more detail to his disciples who (not for the first or last time) haven’t understood him. Jesus says that food we eat is processed and passes out of the body. It’s a physial function having no moral implications. However, the way we speak and act does have moral implications affecting ourselves and other people. Our words and deeds can be said to be unclean but they come from our hearts, not from our bodies and diets or the way we eat.
We’re powerfully reminded that we can say and do all the right things but it’s what’s going on in our hearts that matters and what is going on in our hearts will always somehow be shown in our lives and relationships. We are reminded that we,too, are called to love beyond all boundaries, ignoring social niceties and prejudices because no one is ever outside the reach of God’s love which is for all people everywhere and always. We are invited to have transformed, enlarged hearts both to receive God’s love from other people and to channel it to them – speaking up to ensure all are included.