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The Canaanite woman’s faith

Gospel Reading: Mt 15:21-28
At that time Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman highlights the profound messianic identity of Jesus as well as the strength of a Gentile woman who finds hope and mercy in this Jewish Messiah. The woman’s amazing faith contrasts with the Pharisees and scribes who find fault with Jesus and keep their distance from this “foreign” enemy. Yet, in the depth of her need, this Canaanite woman recognizes that Jesus is the royal and messianic Son of David, the Lord and Savior.

Her faith faces three obstacles: the silence of Jesus, the annoyance of Jesus’ followers, and a definition of the mission of the Messiah that apparently includes “the lost sheep of the house of Israel” but not her and her daughter.

Under similar circumstances, most people will retreat in dismay or disgust. However, this is a woman of “great faith” and she is not discouraged. She ignores the disciples’ irritation; she dares to break the silence with her renewed cry; and, what is most amazing, this Gentile responds to Jesus’ Jewish messianic identity with reverence and worship.

She kneels before Jesus (cf v 25), and Matthew employs the same Greek word used to describe others who have rightly bowed down before Jesus, including the Magi (cf 2:11), a leper (cf 8:2), a synagogue leader (cf 9:18), and the disciples themselves (cf 14:33).

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