Why I Stay:  Pushing Back Against Those Who Would Treat Us Like Dogs

In DecemberBondings 2.0  invited readers to share the stories of their relationship with the Catholic Church by writing on the theme of “Why We Came, Why We Left, Why We Stayed.”  We “borrowed” this topic from a feature that Commonweal magazine published recently.  We felt it was important for LGBTQ people to share their own stories, so we made the invitation to our readers.

We asked contributors to keep their contributions under 500 words, and also asked how they would like to be identified in terms of name and gender/sexual identity, location.  Anonymity was offered as an option.

We received many responses, and we will be posting a selection of them them over the next few months  on Sundays (barring any important breaking news).  Many thanks to all the contributors.

Today’s writer:

Name:  Jacqui O.

Identified:  From Tucson, Arizona

Why I Stay:  Pushing Back Against Those Who Would Treat Us Like Dogs

I was in Tyre, Lebanon, when I learned that Jesus visited Tyre once.

I was familiar with the story, but I hadn’t paid attention to the location. A woman—maybe Canaanite, maybe Syro-Phoenician—comes to Jesus and asks him to heal her daughter. (Matthew 15: 21-28)

And he sends her away. He calls her a dog. He’s here for the children, the lost sheep of Israel.

I went to Maronite Mass in Tyre because it felt less threatening than Mass at home. I called it a cultural experience, an opportunity for language immersion. But when the priest read the Gospel—”Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters”—it felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.

I’ve read a lot of interpretations of the Canaanite woman’s story. Maybe Jesus was testing her? Maybe he was acting something out for the disciples’ benefit? This does not satisfy me. These answers do not justify the unspeakable cruelty of the exchange.

I do not know the answer to the question—but I do know that the story is a question. It is my question. The question I have carried since I was told that the Bread of Life could not enter this queer body of mine. “Lord, I am not worthy…,” but I must be particularly unworthy.

Why does the mercy of God fall so heavily on some while the rest of us crawl in the dust begging for that mercy—begging to be treated like dogs if not human beings? How do you find faith in a God whose disciples would send you away?

The woman doesn’t get answers, but she does receive mercy. She asks for crumbs and God gives her abundance.

I asked God for crumbs in that dusty Maronite church that smelled like a psalm, and he gave me bread. I haven’t stopped taking the Eucharist since, and I go to Mass in English now.

Maybe the Church is like Jesus in this moment, and there’s some deep, mysterious reason for why it tries to send me away. But I know my part. Like the woman in Tyre, I’m here to push back. I’m here to stay.

Jacqui O., January 20, 2019



10 replies
  1. Kris
    Kris says:

    What a wonderful post!

    That passage has puzzled me, too; it has, at times, even disturbed my faith in Christ. For these reasons, I chose to avoid dwelling on similarly unsettling passages in Scripture, because they seemed to challenge the New Testament convention that Jesus was sinless.

    How could God be so cruel, so contemptuous, as to imply that one of his creation, the Syro-Phonecian woman, was no better than a dog? Well, in my opinion, God implied no such thing: it was Jesus the Jewish human who unthinkingly, and sinlessly, did. But God his Father spoke through the woman that eventful day and taught his son, Jesus the Jewish person, a thing or two about his children who were not Jewish. The difference is that Jesus was always open, perfectly attuned, to his Father’s voice…and he heard it that day, not through the Jewish scriptures, but through a plaintive and desperate Gentile woman, just as he heard his Father speak through a Roman centurion who had humbled himself (perhaps even humiliated himself) for love of a dying young servant of his and dared, publicly, to ask Jesus to heal him.

    We forget, all too often, that Jesus was human as well as divine. This is part of the mystery of our redemption: that Jesus as fully human had to grow in the ways of God…and, therefore, had not only to learn the will of his Father, but to ‘unlearn’ much that mainstream Judaism taught about him.

    The Father’s voice comes through many unexpected people, including queer people, and especially from people on social margins. Why? Because that voice is universal, restricted to no one scripture, or demographic. And, principally, because Love is quintessentially compassionate, mercy being its signature. And mercy rhymes with need.

    Those most like Jesus will recognise that voice, even if it is counter-cultural, and willingly heed its call.

  2. Vernon Smith
    Vernon Smith says:

    This is a beautiful, challenging reflection upon this New Testament story. Thank you so much for sharing it, Jacqui!

  3. Chepe Jose
    Chepe Jose says:

    Jesus was human, He was a prophet. I don’t believe he was god. That incident was wrong, as were a few others, such as making a whip and driving the money changers out of the temple.

  4. Max
    Max says:

    Thank you for this spirit filled insightful reflection and thecourageous bold-in-the-spirit turn in your life. I read it in conjunction with Richard Rohr’s email meditation for the day on the ongoing disaster of putting new wine into old wine skins. Behold I make all things new.

  5. Thomas Ellison
    Thomas Ellison says:

    Last February (2018) , our church decided to publish a directory of members complete with photos. Last spring, the priest asked us to submit two separate photos. My husband and I declined and said :”Then don’t use our photo at all.” Months went by and we assumed the directory was not being printed. Today, it is out. We are excluded. We are involved in the parish, are financially supportive, take turns serving Mass or reading on Sunday and are active in the St Vincent de Paul Conference. We volunteer in the Parish thrift store. We purchase the altar flowers every week. But we are the ones treated like second class citizens.

  6. Mary Jo
    Mary Jo says:

    Oh Thomas, what a shame! Not for you but for your church. Would you and your partner consider finding another more welcoming Catholic Church? Or, I know lots of churches where you and he would be so greatly honored. Please take your wonderful gifts to a place they will be loved and cherished.

  7. Peter
    Peter says:

    Beautiful, although I am now a humanist (a former catholic who has been treated like a dog) I appreciate this site.
    Thanks so much.


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