Friends, a long tradition stresses the perseverance of the Canaanite woman we meet in today’s Gospel. Augustine says that we pray in order to expand our will to accept what God is going to give us. Another reading shows how the woman exemplifies the proper attitude toward God, a combination of humility and boldness, of deference and defiance. We are creatures and God is God; nevertheless, God invites us into intimacy with him.

But I want to emphasize the reading conditioned by the “other.” The Old Testament speaks insistently of the “stranger, the widow, and the orphan.” The ethical life, in a biblical framework, is about the press of these people upon us. They press upon us even when we would greatly prefer them just to go away.

We the Church are the Body of Christ. And so people come to us demanding food, sustenance, friendship, love, shelter, or liberation. Often we are tempted to do what Jesus does initially and what the disciples do: tell them to back off. We are overloaded, busy, and preoccupied. We can’t be bothered.

But the whole of the Christian life consists in remembering the suffering and need of the annoying other.

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