But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly. (Matthew 15:25-28)
Princess Leia from Star Wars. Laura Hobson from Inspector Morse and Lewis. Donna Noble from Doctor Who. Three of my favorite female characters in film and television, and they all have something in common - these are three cheeky women. Strong women, yes, but more than that, they are quick-witted and ready with the snarky comeback in any situation - something I aspire to every time I think of the perfect retort hours after the conversation.
They can also be disinclined to take “no” for an answer. In “The Fires of Pompeii,” the Doctor insists that they must follow the old “You can’t rewrite history, not one line!” mantra. The volcano monster must be vanquished, even at the expense of the lives of the people of Pompeii, because history says that the town was destroyed in 79 AD and there’s nothing he can do to save them. Donna, on the other hand, sees this for the BS that it is - what’s the point of having a time machine if you can’t help people with it? For every argument that he has, she argues back, and they finally reach a compromise: they can’t save everyone, but they can at least save Caecilius and his family.
The gospel passage in the lectionary this week is an odd one. It’s hard to imagine Jesus turning away anyone who needed his help, regardless of where she’s from. Then again, if Jesus didn’t want to help non-Jews, he wouldn’t have been in the region of Tyre and Sidon to begin with, and he would have let his disciples turn the woman away like they wanted to do. Instead, he makes a comment that leaves the door wide open for this cheeky Canaanite to toss back a cheeky reply as she refuses to accept his first answer. Evidently that is enough to prove herself, for the end result is that she gets what she came for. Jesus said it was because of her faith, but I think I know better. And I think cheekiness is something I will aspire to in my spiritual life as well.