Today we read the Gospel from the 17th Sunday of Matthew Chapter 15: verses 21-28, concerning the woman of Canaan who approached Jesus as he came to the region of Tyre and Sidon. She had not been brought up by pious Jewish parents to practice the customs of the Jews and to believe in the living God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. She was a Gentile of Canaanite stock, who were old enemies of the Jews.
Even with all this, the woman was not afraid to approach Jesus but rather strongly believed that He could help her. She called out to Jesus, “have mercy on me O Son of David! My daughter is severely possessed with a demon!” You see Brothers and Sisters, the women exercised her gift of faith. By turning to Jesus for help, she became one of the first of countless Gentiles who later believed in the Gospel and joined the Christian faith. She became an excellent example of the fact that Christianity is for everyone.
As the story goes, she continued to dialog with Jesus who said to her. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the House of Israel…it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs”, to which the woman retorted, “Yes Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their Master’s table”.
Jesus was so moved by her faith that he said to the Canaanite women, “O woman great is your faith. Let it be to you as you desire…and her daughter was healed from that very hour”.
The example of the Canaanite women shows us that faith is also a matter of human resolve, that each person can exercise. Faith builds up a person, a home, a marriage, a friendship, a ministry, a parish, a society. Faith also unlocks the treasures of God’s wisdom and releases His power into our lives with often astonishing results.
This story also teaches us about the women’s persistence in faith, for too often a person makes a commitment of faith but is too soon put off by difficulties or forgetfulness. Jesus discerning the Canaanite women’s faith, decided to test her, “not in insult or abuse were Christ’s words spoken, but for the purpose of calling forth her virtue and revealing the treasure in her”. (Words of St. John Chrysostom).
You see as St. Simeon the New Theologian has said, “no one and nothing can stop us from believing, if we desire it. We can decide to believe and immediately we believe.”
Let us strive in our lives to be persistent in our faith entreating the Lord as did the Canaanite women, “to help me!”