I love this Sunday’s Gospel because, in many ways, it flips the script. In this scene, we have a Canaanite woman calling out to Jesus to cure her daughter. Jesus doesn’t answer her and his disciples want to send her away. But with tenacity and with faith, the Canaanite woman continues to call to Jesus. It is the Canaanite woman who teaches Jesus that he has come not just for the lost sheep of Israel but for people like the Canaanites, as well. If Jesus needed to be taught to expand his circle of care, there’s hope for us all!This passage puts the action and agency completely on the Canaanite woman which is fascinating because (1) she’s a Canaanite, and (2) she’s a woman. As we know, Canaanites were outsiders who were considered a people apart from the Israelites. And as we know, women are rarely portrayed as having their own agency, let alone teaching Jesus. The Canaanite woman doesn’t even have a name, but she does have a voice. And she uses that voice to ask for healing for her daughter.
Who are those who experience oppression, particularly the women, who are calling out to us? Who are the women using their voice to widen our circle of concern?
Recently, Olga Segura wrote an article for the National Catholic Reporter to call the Catholic conversations around Black Lives Matter to honor its women founders. It was three women, Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors, who wanted to create space and a campaign to recognize the dignity of Black lives and how that dignity is daily denied. It was three women who sparked a national movement with global solidarity. It continues to be women who use their voices to drive local and national organizing movements. Yet their names are absent when Catholics talk about Black Lives Matter. We echo their words yet leave them nameless. We must, as Segura urges, amplify the women leaders. Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors and the women who have come before and the women who come after them are like the Canaanite woman calling to each of us to care for those beyond our circle.
Teresa Marie Cariño Petersen is an educator and activist particularly interested in racial justice and embodiment. She currently works as a campus ministry teacher at Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton where she teaches social ethics and coordinates the immersion program. She credits her faith that does justice formation to ISN and is an alum of St. Ignatius (San Francisco), the University of San Francisco, and (soon to be) Jesuit School of Theology. She also served as a Jesuit Volunteer in New York City 13’-14’ and worked at two Jesuit parishes. Teresa also serves on the board of the National Catholic Reporter.
Find her on Instagram @teresamariecarino