Friends, in today’s Gospel, a feisty woman engages Jesus in an argument. It is one of the only scenes in the Gospels where someone cajoles Jesus into doing something he wouldn’t ordinarily do.
There is a long tradition that stresses the woman’s perseverance in the face of the “test” that Jesus sets for her. There is another reading that shows how the woman exemplifies the proper attitude toward God, a combination of humility and boldness, of deference and defiance.
But the reading I want to emphasize is one conditioned by the philosophy of the “other.” The Old Testament speaks insistently of the “stranger, the widow, and the orphan,” those who have no one to care for them. They press upon us even when we would greatly prefer them just to go away.
We the Church are the Body of Christ, the physical presence of Christ in the world. And so people come to us demanding food, sustenance, friendship, love, shelter, liberation. So often we are tempted to do what Jesus does initially and what the disciples do: tell them to back off.
But the whole of the Christian life consists in remembering the suffering and need of the annoying other.