There were a few puzzling things in today’s reading. But most of them can be cleared up by understanding who this Canaanite woman was. She wasn’t famous or anything that I know of, but she was determined. She was not a Jew. Jesus saw something in her that he wanted to reward. Let’s break some of this down.
First of all, she was a Canaanite. She was not Jewish. Jesus’ own statement to his disciples was “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” We could interpret from this that Jesus’ target audience was the Jews needing a savior. The rest of the world would have to wait. The disciples were also distressed by her incessant requests for help. They wondered why Jesus didn’t just send her away. But she persisted. The woman didn’t seem phased by “where she came from” or who Jesus normally healed. She knew without a doubt Jesus could save her daughter from the demons.
When a mother has a child, who is threatened in any way, they can turn into a raging bull, lunatic, or some other superhuman beast trying to get safety, justice, or favorable result for their child. In today’s story, the boundaries of religious beliefs didn’t matter to her. This woman knew Jesus was her answer, and she was not going to take “no” for an answer.
What did you think about Jesus’ response to her? After trying to ignore her demands, he said in what I imagine was a bit of a flippant tone, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” That was a slap in the face. I missed the true meaning at first read. If Jesus came for the lost of Israel, the Jews, they were the children. How fair was it then to take from them to give to their dogs, or their slaves or a people not “chosen” by God?
Ouch! Yet, the woman did not falter in her attempt to win Jesus over and get his help. She agreed with him but added, “but even dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” She was a perky one. She acknowledged she was but a slave to the chosen, yet she was paying attention. She was hanging on every word, too. She was happy to take the scraps, the leftovers, that the Israelites were leaving behind.
Did you notice her devotion? She called Jesus “Lord, Son of David.” She knelt before him. She was clearly displaying that she recognized his authority over demons. What did Jesus see? He looked beyond her frantic nature. He looked beyond the fact she wasn’t Jewish. He saw her heart. He saw her faith and trust. He even said she had “great” faith.
Time and time again, in this Gospel and in the others, we see Jesus a bit frustrated with the lack of faith of his very own disciples. Just a few readings ago we saw they questioned how they were going to feed a multitude or that they would be safe when the waves of a storm were crashing into their boat. Yet in this Canaanite woman, in all her simplicity, Jesus saw something that pleased him. Great faith. He rewarded her for it, and her daughter was healed at that moment.
What does this say to us? For me, it causes me to take a step back so I can examine my own faithfulness. Do I believe Jesus can deliver me from my adversaries? Do I believe Jesus will guide me in my business dealings? Do I trust Jesus with my life and the lives of my children?
If we had a faith meter scale of 1-10, where are you?
Let’s pray. Lord, I applaud this woman for her faith and realize I have a long way to go to be so bold. Help me to dispel any demons that are keeping me from focusing on you with my whole heart. Cleanse me, mold me, direct my paths. You are my strength and my shield. May I yield to you. Ready me for what you have prepared for me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.