Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.”
He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
Today’s gospel might initially seem like a story about healing, but I think it is really a story about faith. We hear about the Canaanite woman whose daughter is tormented by a demon. At first Jesus does not say a word in response to her petition. Then he states he is only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He goes on to suggest helping a Canaanite is like taking the food of children and throwing it to the dogs. These are very harsh words! The woman refuses to be beaten down by these words.
Her faith is not simply a belief that Jesus is God and can heal her daughter. Her faith is a belief that God is love. Jesus is loving and compassionate. She is not discouraged by the words Jesus speaks or the circumstances of her own life.
This faith is very much like the grace we pray for in the first week of the Spiritual Exercises. We pray not only to know our own sinfulness, but also to know that God loves us unconditionally and infinitely beyond what we can imagine. Our God is a loving, forgiving, and compassionate God. The Canaanite woman has absolute faith that Jesus will respond with unconditional and infinite love.
Is my faith as strong as this woman’s? When I do not receive what I pray for, when harsh words are directed at me, when life seems totally unfair; do I still believe that God is love. Do I believe that God’s infinite, unconditional, and absolute love is for me. At those times in my life, do I call out to the Lord and relentlessly seek His love and compassion, as the Canaanite woman does?
David McNulty is the Provincial Assistant for Advancement, Chicago-Detroit Province Jesuits
Lord, our intentions are good. We mean to save space in our day to listen and share with you. When we have done this in the past, we have experienced a security found in you and are better able to face the headaches and heartaches of the day. We want to empty ourselves of anything that distances our heart from you. We turn to you, Lord, with open hands and open hearts. Fill us with your grace that we may accept that we really are your beloved and that your Spirit is present in our morning, afternoon, and evening.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!