Oh, this reading was meant to spark controversy!
Jesus is in pagan land, in the region of Tire and Sidon. A local woman (Canaanite) asks him to save her sick daughter (she was said to have “a demon”, but that’s not necessarily meant as a demonic possession in the proper sense). Jesus, at least at first, appears unfriendly, contemptuous. He states that he’s been sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel!
Only after doubling down, comparing pagans like her to house pets,
It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs
eventually he performs the miracle: he gives in due to this woman’s persistence and, more importantly, her faith.
Faith well represented by a phrase, from this otherwise unknown pagan… an answer that is a masterpiece in humility:
even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters
Let’s just say here there’s ground for significant criticism from adversaries, hence opportunities for embarrassment.
A painful sight…
The case of the Jesuit Antonio Spadaro, one of the loyal advisers of Pope Bergoglio, is exemplary. In his commentary on the Gospel (published in a newspaper that is anything but Christian), speaking of the episode of Jesus and the Canaanite, Spadaro writes that Jesus was rigid, unshakable. His answer, mocking and disrespectful, represents
A fall in tone, in style, in humanity. Jesus appears as if he were blinded by nationalism and theological rigorism.
But luckily, with that answer the pagan woman manages to “convert him” to herself (this is again Spadaro’s thought, including the quotation marks), and to
upset the rigidity of Jesus…
Here’s how he concludes:
even Jesus appears healed, and in the end he appears to have been freed, from the rigidity of the dominant theological, political and cultural elements of his time.
Mind-boggling: in this interpretation, a passage that in itself is just difficult becomes an opportunity to express a negative judgment on Christ himself!
Did Christ need conversion? Really?
At that point if you still got blood in your veins, you’d react and proclaim: I don’t believe in this Jesus. If that’s accurate, our faith is in vain. He isn’t even a good teacher, since he makes such a hateful mistake, he expresses prejudices. These cannot simply be called errors: they are sins.
(No excuses: Spadaro uses some deliberately ambiguous expressions, but a pastor has a duty of clarity in teaching; he cannot instill in thousands of readers the idea of a sinful Jesus, and then defend himself by saying that technically, through some effort, his own words could be interpreted differently…)
According to a modern mentality, Jesus was bad.
Nasty towards this woman:
-he didn’t consider how his words hurt her;
-he judged her on the basis of ethnic stereotypes;
-he was neither diplomatic nor cosmopolitan;
-wasn’t open, inclusive: on the contrary, he discriminated!
But do these Spadaro types believe in Jesus after all?
If they had the courage to draw proper conclusions from their actions, they would be atheists.
I’ll tell you how they believe.
I’m sorry… I’m getting all riled up now, this will take a while.
They believe, as an absolute, untouchable bulwark, in modernism and all its tenets. They love the very concept of transient, uncontrolled transformation; the evolution of a faith which should correspond as closely as possible to the expectations of the world.
Let go, but with the priest’s blessing: the new Fruit, not even Forbidden.
New = beautiful, old = ugly. Kindergarten-level reasoning, but that’s how it.
In addition they’re also fond of this Jesus, seen as an extra; after all, over the years they developed a sort of familiarity with him, plus he’s useful as he’s universally appreciated. He’s an excellent character to be used, in limited doses, in their sermons, almost as a puppet.
Having no respect for Christ, they can well use him today in the rigid part of the backwardist.
Bonus: with such a conveniently customized Jesus, it’s even easier to feel confirmed in your positions, perfectly at ease living in sin: that’s our nature, one quips… look, even Jesus was sinning… Indeed, if I am to get in bed with someone who’s not my wife, or worse if I commit abuses of various kinds… well, after all I have my reasons, but can you picture instead how hateful, hypocritical and unbearable these conservatives are, especially if the judgmental bigots are men of the cloth!
Hence that’s why Bergoglio created this neologism, Indietristi, which we may translate backwardists; conservatives he obsessively rails against in speeches and interviews. And no, one cannot treat Spadaro as an anomaly, an exception, given that (I hear) this Jesuit director of the prestigious periodical La Civiltà Cattolica, isn’t just one of Francis’s advisers; he’s allegedly the mind, the theological-cultural reference point behind the pope’ speeches.
These things do not happen by chance.
First Spadaro writes this article in which Jesus Christ is presented as your typical obtuse conservative, in need of conversion. Even Jesus!
Then, after a thorough criticism is published on the Catholic web magazine La Bussola Quotidiana, openly calling Spadaro heretic, a new step is made (as reported by the same source): a bishop, Monsignor Staglianò, intervenes in his capacity as president of the Pontifical Academy of Theology, defending Spadaro and calling those critics heretics.
I found Staglianò’s article disconcerting because it contained yet another stale progressive tirade, rehashing a few overused anti-conservative talking points (described as unwilling to welcome migrants or promote ecology) but in practice had absolutely nothing to say on the subject at hand!
At this juncture, even newspapers that don’t want to side with the “traditionalists” notice a sinister, laser-focused message here, sent by high-ranking prelates. A signal on the times to come, in view of a Synod on Synodality which is evidently a planned catastrophe, devised in the name of the Revolution:
the article would represent an initial, merciless artillery barrage salvo, to prepare the ground for the Synod.
Gospel vs. Ideology
In the meantime, Pope Francis insists on giving his trademark facepalm interviews: this time venting on the US Church, seen as guilty of resisting his initiatives aimed at deep change; he declared that
in the United States the situation isn’t easy, there is a very strong and organized reactionary attitude
…plus, in order to describe this alleged closed-mindedness, he added that, for these opponents,
ideology replaces faith.
Yes, the US church represents a fairly unique exception, because Americans, in general, are direct, down-to-earth, and sincere in their faith: they’re alien to the curia atmosphere and its smokestries. Most people from other backgrounds, once subjected to a meandering monologue from some Monsignor full of false erudition, may cave in and their objections be effectively silenced; not so with the average American: this kind of tricks stimulates an even stronger reaction. Maybe that’s because they’re proudly independent spirits, also used to fight every day not to be fooled by used car salesmen: they aren’t easily duped by self-importance and verbal gymnastics.
So… paradoxically, despite this maddening progressivism that poisoned a significant slice of US identitarian Catholicism, which makes a surprising amount of people capable not only of seeing in Joe Biden a Catholic but of admiring him as well (!)…
Despite all of this, a majority of Catholics there are more prudent, insightful, and determined to keep their faith.
Notice the contrast: here’s the most powerful nation in the world, from where the present revolutionary wave essentially originated, which paradoxically -in Catholicism- represents a stumbling block.
That explains all the complaining from the current progressive curia, including first of all the pope. As if they were mumbling: those Yankees don’t bend over despite our efforts to humiliate indomitable spirits like Chaput and Burke, protecting powerful animals like Weakland and McCarrick, insisting on putting in prestigious positions a whole list of followers and proteges of these “progressive” bishops and cardinals (Farrell, Cupich…).
It’s important to take notice that, while American newspapers -like the NYT I linked above- tend to discuss the issue as if there were just a problem with some conservative groups in America, this pope and his consiglieri perceive the nature of the United States itself as something problematic; it’s as if they were agreeing with me, identifying the spirit of those conservative rebels as the proper, authentic spirit of America.
Now one has to ponder how absurd this sounds: American or not, supposedly pew-sitters and priests who for decades have enthusiastically supported previous popes would suddenly become a problem. Because -they tell us- now the time has come to change. Since they want to stay put in their faith, this is a problem. Indeed, says the pope, they are replacing faith with ideology!
Psychologists would say this is a well-known phenomenon: it is a glaring case of projection. You accuse your opponents of what you are doing. A classic of the left, at all latitudes.
Here, it was not enough for modernists to create a tailor-made, therapeutical Christ, who’s increasingly less likely to be named while they’re busy discussing solidarity, modern values and ecology.
No, now even Christ can be presented as a flawed character, one who’s inexcusably close-minded.
And woe to those who fail to position themselves correctly! That’s a career-ending blunder.
My mind goes to the late Cardinal Giacomo Biffi, once uttering this bittersweet remark regarding the alleged progress of the Church after Vatican II:
They accuse me of being a preconciliar type, but I console myself thinking that Jesus was too.
Side note: the same term indietrista (i.e. backwardist) is, as I said, an invention by Pope Bergoglio.
It’s a neologism meant to put in a bad light those who don’t accept an ideological, historicist reading of the doctrine of the Church: truth itself mutates, according to the children of the Permanent Revolution. That’s why you should never look back.
This is a total reversal of the Christian worldview.
(Sidenote to the sidenote… But be careful: traditionalism, especially now that it feels cornered by a powerful and ruthless opposition, is indeed at risk of becoming stale and sterile; a sort of museum version of the Church, a niche phenomenon. Irrelevant to the larger society due to its inability to provide answers to the pressing questions of today.)
Brace for impact!
Here’s something you’ll never find in a sermon, for obvious reasons.
A call to prepare for the worst: dire times are coming, some of the darkest in the entire history of the Church. Decadence is accelerating.
This widespread derangement, which contaminated even the Vatican, brings winds of change (allegedly a positive development) that stimulate and accompany a deep crisis of faith, a generalized disaffection. The building is collapsing, and all these fools can do is make things worse.
There are several earth-shattering crises developing simultaneously in our societies… and our Church is not only so mired in internal conflicts that it cannot muster the strength to affect the world out there; it’s actually mostly hell-bent on imploding: at this juncture, only an extraordinary intervention by the Holy Spirit could save her. Perhaps we’re facing years of despair, after a painful progression of bad news, with churches being closed, demolished, or at least empty.
Did I mention this was going to take a while? Sorry.
But we still have to comment on the Gospel.
First lesson: don’t jump to conclusions
If read from a faith perspective, this Gospel passage cannot really mean that Jesus despised that poor thing.
You are sinners just like me: you know perfectly well what it means to look down on a woman that you casually met on the street because she belonged, let’s say, to the wrong ethnic group; one who perhaps did (or was supposed to have done) something questionable. Here’s an idea: a gypsy; this seems a suitable example for our day. Even if you try and chase away those ignoble feelings, you know you possess them inside you, you know them quite well. Not pretty.
Jesus cannot be like this, immersed in our slime, not even for the thickness of a rose petal. No, Jesus is pure.
If He is sinless, if we are not fools who follow a false and illusory religion, there must be a different explanation.
Yet through a superficial or malevolent reading, Jesus does not make a good impression on us.
Here, we cannot stop at appearances, or worse triumphantly jump to conclusions.
But here’s a fundamental lesson for progressives, and not just for this reckless Father Spadaro: who exactly appointed you as judges of the inner forum of other people?
Typical situation: your target is huffing and puffing to try and dismiss your accusations, but you insist, undaunted: if he denies it, that’s because he knows he’s at fault, trying to hide his mistakes… but you feel it inside, you know that behind a respectable façade lies a new Hitler!
Why on earth did you tie the knot with a Progressivism that made a point of pretending to reveal and interpret the True Unconfessable Thoughts of their reactionary/conservative opponent, if even Jesus Christ, just by playing with his words, could be unjustly accused of being a closed-minded, indeed mean person?
No, here we incidentally learn that even when a sentence has the appearance of an attack, meant to offend and despise, it’s not a given that’s actually the case.
Hence it’s the right and commendable thing to do, to oppose the typical attitude that dominates journalism and the mainstream culture: the passive-aggressive misattribution of ill will that is used as a club to bludgeon people into silence and submission.
This line of reasoning on the other hand cannot be used as an excuse for anyone to throw a stone, deliberately projecting hostility and prejudice, then hiding their hand.
We can, and in fact, must judge other people’s words! But let’s do so by trying to draw a comprehensive picture, by understanding all the relevant facts and performing a careful analysis; this is a far cry from looking for excuses, re-interpreting a single sentence in the worst possible way.
Second lesson: we’re not a “Religion of the Book”
Once again you may appreciate how, if we rely exclusively on the text as it appears before us, without a solid Church tradition, we could draw a deeply distorted image of Jesus: not only charmless, but indeed hideous.
As I said in the past, we must once again assert that the Bible is an instrument: precious but incomplete.
The real foundation lies in the community founded by Jesus himself, the Church. Which was able to extract a complex, coherent and convincing system of thought from the tradition it received.
Yet moments like this also come, in which doctrinal clarity is temporarily blurred, and even at the top (!) confusion, ideology, a lust for change, adopting heterodox doctrines, prevail. If these days were not shortened by grace we would really risk losing everything.
The difficult, hard, disconcerting passages of the Gospel also exist for this very important purpose: to make the text unusable for a private reading, like that of Protestants, who in fact cannot come to a shared agreement on what to believe.
Third teaching: there’s an order in things;
Jesus had to anchor his Church firmly, on a solid, well-defined foundation: the Jewish people and the Old Testament. Only at a later time does opening up to the rest of the world become possible, reasonable, indeed part of a plan for those who believe.
We have already discussed this complex, interlocking set of events.
That’s why he had to actively hinder (!) the premature spreading of the Gospel among the pagans. This may seem counterintuitive but it makes sense.
How clear was this plan in Jesus’ mind when he began his preaching? I don’t know, I’d say nobody knows. Being also a man, Jesus did not know everything, including the future; however, I am unable to analyze this complex theological problem, so I’ll leave it to others.
In fact, discussing this issue isn’t even significant for this article.
True, his not having a universal mission in mind at the time is technically within the range of possible scenarios; a version of Jesus who genuinely thought he came exclusively for the Jews would not be prejudicial to faith, albeit problematic. But we have no reason to believe that this was the case!
I personally find this widespread attitude utterly ridiculous: claiming to demonstrate prudence and “scientific” rigor by insisting only a reconstruction that minimizes each and every juicy bit could receive a stamp of approval by historians. In this case, Jesus Christ would almost inevitably be unaware, misunderstood, reinterpreted arbitrarily.
Realistically: how many times have we heard of leaders or holy men who claimed to (be able to) save the world, usually greatly overestimating their power, knowledge and relevance? Now, enlightened scholars would try to convince us that by contrast right when God chose to come in the flesh, to actually save the world, He became a man who had totally different, short-term goals, and had no idea about this grand plan, the essence of his mission!
Even if you believe Jesus was an impostor, it’s a stretch to assume he was so successful in unwittingly launching a universal religion, while so many weren’t that were actually trying to.
But, as I said, we don’t need to give a final answer to this issue here and now. What interests us at present is this: Jesus had good reasons to behave as he did. He wasn’t malevolent nor a slave to sinful prejudices.
Putting every piece of the puzzle in its proper place…
At this juncture, the most obvious objection would be:
“ OK, it makes sense to resist the pagan. But couldn’t he act a bit less outrageously, act diplomatic, thus avoiding us a few headaches?”
Again, here’s why I insist on talking about the Bible text being an interlocking puzzle.
It’s not just events that are deeply interconnected, each of them carrying out a specific function; you have to consider the multiple and concomitant purposes of each individual passage of scriptures.
If in fact, the text exists to communicate a series of messages, coexisting on different levels, we will find it unsatisfactory or inappropriate if we’re only interested in a very specific idea, obsessively focusing on that and expecting the whole paragraph to be optimized to convey that specific message and nothing else.
Let me go back again to the classic case of the Muslim who finds scriptural references to the divinity of Jesus not sufficiently clear, indeed far from indisputable from his point of view. Of course! That’s because Jesus isn’t only God, and his having a complex relationship with the Father, in addition to being a man, prevents the simplistic, naively requested form of revelation: an imaginary Jesus saying “ Here I am in front of you, I am God the Father, Creator of the Universe, worship me”.
The Gospels are hard to decipher and that’s by design: they must be impervious to any one-dimensional interpretation!
Here we have a text that
– must first of all be a historical pivot point,
– then it must retell a story that really happened; a story that serves to emphasize a need for development in preaching,
– additionally, it’s meant to illustrate a proper attitude of humble prayer, plus the crucial being put to the test by God;
– plus other meanings. All present in those few words.
Perhaps it is now clear why I feel like developing such a long analysis: if I were to deal separately with some of the contents and teachings found in this reading, one could hardly appreciate their interdependence.
Fourth teaching opportunity, and quite significant: Jesus testing us
We finally got to the point where a sermon from a real-life priest could begin: stick to explaining the most immediate and proper meaning of this passage.
Again, if Scripture is to be read as a whole, it makes no sense to pretend to get a glimpse of the character of Jesus from a single passage. We know about His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross; we observe that Jesus sets lofty, seemingly impossible goals for us, but at the same time he’s caring, benevolent, always willing to forgive.
So let’s take those words uttered by Jesus as calculated, not malicious.
First of all, this woman isn’t just from a different ethnicity. She’s a pagan: a slave of a system of superstitions; she doesn’t believe in God but in many divinities, or more properly mysterious, magical forces; to be feared but also to turn to, in order to get favors. She belongs to a people known for the sinister practice of human sacrifices to the god Moloch, especially children.
Let’s face it: human sacrifices were far from a rarity in the ancient world. In fact our ancestors in prehistoric times were anthropophagous. The heart of man is full of darkness. Even Israel had been there: we find traces of this fact in the Bible. Abraham’s story, on his being ready to sacrifice Isaac, but receiving a sort of call, a moment of clarity, thus sparing his child, reflects this.
So, it’s appropriate to re-center the perspective and say: yes, after so many centuries, believing in these superstitions represented a problem. Even for a pagan, that could be called a sin, that one needs to be freed from.
Maybe not necessarily insulted, but for their beliefs the Canaanites deserved to be confronted without much ceremony, highlighting the evil of their way of life.
It’s true that one may believe in the worst of the worst in good faith; moreover, being a woman, realistically in her society there weren’t many escape routes for her. In practice, she was chained up to her world, religious practices included: through practical impediments, her family, social rules and conventions.
To think of it, perhaps this is why we find Jesus, more often than not, meeting women, not men, from neighboring populations (think also of the Samaritan woman). First of all this type of dialogue, between a rabbi (teacher), from a people known for their scrupulous care for ritual purity, and an impure or pagan woman, indeed causes scandal, but it also represents an opportunity for a reversal of perspective, for the emancipation and affirmation of the dignity of women… Secondly, this could be a sign of Jesus’ greater indulgence towards women, for their limited responsibility in their condition and the faults of their people.
Plus here we may find a further teaching opportunity nested inside. Our faults need to be acknowledged and chastised, especially if the protagonist speaking is a teacher capable of reading people’s hearts, someone who knows when a dressing down is in order. This is a far cry from our modern attitude: diplomacy at all costs, giving up even the idea of mentioning sin, letting the wounds become infected… for fear of driving people away, or maybe hurting their feelings!
Indeed, this is our modern faith and deeds: lukewarm, clueless, inconclusive.
No, it’s better to have a moment of conflict, to cause a gut reaction if anything, even hostility! Open, honest criticism helps shed light on an infection that is festering. Going for a quiet life, not poking the bear, means eventually forgetting what lies behind acting morally and doing evil “in earnestness”.
Ironically, from a people who attributed a sacred value to immolating children, here comes a mother who’s willing to try anything to save her child.
A mother’s heart. Here we’re getting to the heart of the problem. If you’re a mother this works even better, but still… try to put yourself in her shoes: what wouldn’t you try to save your child? This happens in our day too: once the most promising conventional options and therapies are exhausted, we turn to the most diverse and improbable alternative treatments. Including the guy who treats tumors with lemon juice, the other non-doctor who uses baking soda instead (why not both, since you’re at it, so that you get a nice foam?), a “ pranotherapist ” laying his hands on us… Up to the Indian guru who invented his very own religion, inspired by the usual oriental traditions, which are hardly ever out of fashion…
There is something for everyone in this supermarket, indeed. We believe any puny idol which promises to restore our health. We’re pagans again.
Think how happy Jesus could be to be placed onto this stage, treated like a run-of-the-mill Sai Baba… here’s someone desperately trying anything, in practice saying “Let’s try this too: here’s a foreign teacher who they say, is capable of healing impossible cases”…
Jesus isn’t just, as often was the case, annoyed that people seek wonders and miracles instead of the Word that saves.
A miracle is an absolutely exceptional tool, happening for a reason, for the Revelation: a sign confirming a faith, showing how it’s not just a belief based on empty, beautiful words…
The last thing you’d accept: to see miracles down to a means to obtain a desired result. Imagine finding this woman, a month after the miracle, possibly burning incense again in front of a random magic statuette…
Here’s the reason, indeed the need, to test her!
That woman is called to recognize a priority. JHWH (I am), the God of Israel, truly exists; from there comes true salvation. Whoever is outside… is as if they were part of a lesser humanity, lost in ignorance. Not only must she recognize this reality, but to do it clearly, to humbly demonstrate an openness of her heart to conversion. On the other hand, a blind attempt, made only because she had nothing to lose, would not have been acceptable.
That’s what she had to go through, humbly and spontaneously offering: yes, I am like a dog, but I’d be happy if I could just feed myself with the crumbs.
Once you read this passage from this angle, that’s a magnificent result: test passed. Awesome. Something to contemplate.
Additional consideration: here it’s about her child being liberated from a demon, rather than from some form of ailment. Although eventually the term used means healed. The two, at that time and in their worldview, were quite superimposable. Yours truly, of course, does not exclude anything a priori.
Fifth: the credibility of the Scriptures, once again
For me this is perhaps the most significant aspect, the pivot point of the entire passage, yet it arises from a retrospective analysis.
This is a useful passage, especially for skeptics.
I had observed that there are many evidences and clues, documentary and even archaeological, of the fact that the NT is by no means the result of a long creative process, carried out by a community (supposedly) free to invent stories due to their distance in time and space from Jesus’ Galilee and Judea.
Here, I said, in the wake of others far more competent than me, including first of all Vittorio Messori: this distance is not just assumed but desired, since it’s super useful for the purposes of many exegetes; that’s why they fight tooth and nail for it: because it allows to diminish the credibility of the Gospels. Which happens to be the actual goal, stemming out of personal, collectively fashionable, philosophical prejudices. If there were no distance, this would create a problem for skeptics that want to dismiss the most challenging contents.
In this reading we can find a textbook case. I believe I already mentioned in the past one of the criteria that are used to evaluate the credibility of a text: the criterion of embarrassment.
Why, if you made up this story, should you put words in your characters’ mouths that put them in a bad light and/or hinder your preaching?
Here’s a passage that seems to indicate a Jesus sent to Israel alone, which creates a huge problem. Even assuming this blunt dialogue wouldn’t be seen as off-putting to an audience of Greek language and culture, as it makes us moderns raise an eyebrow… Why leave in the book a text where preaching to pagans was hampered, unless
1. that dialogue indeed happened,
2. you had to faithfully report the facts and words of Jesus, even when counterproductive?
Please take notice of the exceptional weight this nugget of truth shall have, however hidden in the folds this is.
Even more so if we take into account the alleged time distance. A community of the late 1st century, early 2nd, should have taken into account that a large part of the faithful and potential new converts came directly from paganism, as indeed began to happen almost immediately. They’d never have invented such a scene. Indeed, if it already existed and they were as free to modify the Gospel as alleged, they’d have expunged it from the manuscripts. If not to avoid rejecting the pagans, at least in order not to feed internal disputes between Christians respectively of Jewish origin or coming from paganism (quarrels that were already seen in the Acts of the Apostles).
Therefore, considering that in the composition of the Gospels many events and words of Jesus have been omitted, for example for the sake of brevity, even just based on the peculiarity of this passage we can draw two further reasonable conclusions:
3. it was composed, and circulated as a preaching tool, well before the fall of the Temple of Jerusalem (in the year 70 AD), really close to the facts;
4. the community later could not change significantly the text, indeed they did not.
(Point 3 is perhaps not obvious to everyone, but the year 70 marks the end of ancient Israel; it represents a breaking point: mentioning a mission entirely to the people of Israel made sense only for a text written as a practical, immediate preaching aid, used in that specific context, before everything changed.)
No kidding! In a world where the opinion of ignorant atheists prevails, often without challenge, proclaiming Jesus Christ completely equivalent to fairies and gnomes, here’s an example of how convincing conclusions can be drawn even based on biased texts.
This, without falling into a kind of superficial absolutism that is in fact typical of these unbelievers: they’re really convinced they can separate reliable sources from unreliable tales just like that, without delving deeper.
Just the fact that a passage seems counterproductive and inappropriate happens to represent its most precious treasure: as if it represented an unintended and invisible (to the human author) anti-counterfeiting seal.
Notice how the know-it-all may feel reinforced in their skepticism by objections pointing in opposite directions, as if this did not create contradictions:
1. on the one hand, Jesus would not have dreamed of founding a new religion, or of aiming to convert all humanity, beyond Israel;
2. on the other, the texts of the NT would be quite late, hardly credible, works of fantasy.
This reading instead seems to be designed to destroy their sophistries, because the mere fact that it could offer an opportunity for people to think of point #1 then excludes #2! But at the same time it is not affirming #1; through other means it is possible to exclude it.
Through this two separate arguments are dismantled: both the malicious interpretations based on textual internal criteria and the idea that internal criteria cannot be used to come to a tangible, reliable result.
Last teaching, still underestimated and partly unexplored: in His image!
This last point, which touches on large-scale but elusive and rarely discussed issues, allow me to discuss it another time. Hard, but deserving a second look.
I’ll just say: Jesus isn’t just opposed to limiting the miracle to a means to an end, however understandable: healing a daughter or freeing her from a devil. He’s asked something that isn’t appropriate at the moment: to shift his attention, turning to pagans. How does all this fit into God’s plan? Similarly we could highlight the miracle of Cana.
Perhaps the divine plan foresaw “since forever” that specific miracle, but then why react as if it were a wrong request? Or maybe it wasn’t in the plans, so why answer it?
As if God could be bent over our prayers; changing his mind…
Well … well!
It seems that it is so. Appropriately Jesus is also a man, immersed in time. As such he can additionally show this side of our relationship with him. We participate in our own way, through a gift that is given to us, in defining the very form of reality. Truly God could have made history follow alternative, different ways. But we can choose, ask and get. Even for what is good, there can be many different ways. And this is how we leave a mark: our footprint.
This too, I would say, is part of being created in his image.
Just with his showing a contrary will, Jesus makes us discreetly understand that in our small way we have a power to change the future, beyond the visible effect of our actions. If he had always been pleased and ready to answer affirmatively, we could have suspected that we were living an existence entirely predetermined to stay on fixed rails, where nothing we do is actually of our volition, every bit is a reflection of the divine will.
But if we really participate in creation like this, from the inside, well… this changes everything.