Tuesday of the Twelfth Week in Ordinary Time
(Genesis 13:2.5-18; Matthew 7:6.12-14)
The movie The Fugitive received much acclaim as an action drama. It showed a physician who is wrongly convicted of murdering his wife. The doctor escapes police custody but is pursued by a deft marshal. He is able to escape arrest until he uncovers the real murderer. In the last scene the marshal takes the physician, who has not yet been officially exonerated, into custody. Rather than handcuff him, however, he allows the doctor to freely ride to the courthouse. The marshal’s graciousness resembles Jesus’ in a scene from Matthew’s gospel. When he realizes a Canaanite woman has real faith, Jesus alters the warning he makes in today’s passage about giving what is holy to the dogs.
Of course, Jesus is not literally talking about dogs when he admonishes his disciples. Dogs are heathens who do not believe in God, the all-loving Father. Jews of the first century regularly saw Gentiles as “dogs.” Hence, Jesus is telling his disciples to be wary about teaching them religious doctrine. The Canaanite woman, who is a Gentile, appears later in the gospel. She asks Jesus to exorcise the demon possessing her daughter. Jesus responds with an unbecoming statement echoing what he says today about giving what is holy to dogs. However, when the woman demonstrates that she believes, Jesus changes his assessment and grants her request.
Our Lord always gives good example. If he is mistaken about someone, he does not have to save face by trying to hide his error. Perhaps he would be more careful about the image he uses the next time he preaches about teaching Gentiles. In any case, he would not want us to deride anyone by calling them “dogs.” And when we misjudge someone publicly, he would want us to apologize for our mistake.