Matthew 15:21-28 - The Canaanite Woman
"Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us. But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs. And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour." Matthew 15:21-28
How do we respond when people ignore us, oppose us, or insult us? In our pride, we begin to think negatively about the person doing it, rarely recognizing our own sinfulness and our deserving of calamity.
We have all most likely committed deeds worthy of God's wrath but have hopefully been forgiven such deeds through baptism and confession. We, therefore, are in no position to expect good things to come to us because of our worthiness.
It is always a blessing when good things happen, but when we confront trials, we must remember that we are deserving of all kinds of suffering due to our choosing to reject God, the source of Life.
While we as Christians have been forgiven our sins, in God's wisdom, He allows us to continue to confront trials to help us grow in virtue and to help others to see how to respond to temptation. God only allows bad things to happen if it could be of benefit in some way.
The woman in today's Gospel reading is one of the greatest examples of the humility and faith required to enter into the Kingdom of God. She was not even from the Jewish race, shaming those that rejected our Lord, and offering hope to those outside the Church.
Having experienced the hardships of life in this fallen world and in idolatrous beliefs, she was seeking for the True God. And by persistence in searching for such relief, God encountered her giving her the opportunity to come to True Faith and be healed.
But our Lord Jesus Christ, wanting to show us the humility and perseverance needed by us greatly sinful beings originally made in the image of God Himself, allowed the great Saint to be tested for our instruction.
He first ignores her entreaty and then states that He was not sent to those outside Israel. And even after her worshipping Him and begging for His help, He answers with the words, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
Our Lord was not personally insulting this great Saint with these actions, but rather rebuking those outside of His chosen people that were still in idolatry and living as mere beasts in their sinful way of life.
This holy woman was able to understand our Lord's words because of her humility and felt no anger because of the truth in them; that she was not worthy of God's mercy, but asked it nonetheless as a gift.
She not only acknowledged that she was more comparable to a dog than to a child of God, but even added that these children of God were her masters.
Our Lord teaches us about the Eucharist in these words by speaking of the bread for the children of God. We see that it is not for those outside the Church, but those that have come to the Church in a lowly state eat the crumbs that fall from the table. We should all feel as lowly as dogs ourselves and our brothers in the Church as Children of God.
She knew that a crumb from this bread of Life was enough to heal her daughter that was possessed by a devil. She only longed to be allowed to be a lowly member of the household of God. She sought the lowest place and was rewarded by God.
This is a very encouraging account that displays God's great call to all mankind. He draws all those searching for Him and encounters them, but requires that they come in humility and conversion from their former sinful way of life.
We see that while the Apostles were not able to cast out a demon out of a young boy, this woman had learned the method of casting out demons by humility and faith.
St. John Chrysostom explains that we have to do our part if we are to successfully conquer the devil saying, "Seest thou how this woman too contributed not a little to the healing of her daughter? For to this purpose neither did Christ say, 'Let thy little daughter be made whole,' but, ' Great is thy faith, be it unto thee even as thou wilt;' to teach thee that the words were not used at random, nor were they flattering words, but great was the power of her faith."
We need to remember our humble beginning as Christians and not allow ourselves to think more of ourselves than we ought, believing that we are worthy of eating at the table of God because of our great piety. We could easily find ourselves cast out and others with humility found in our place.
May we stay lowly of heart, conquering temptations that test our pride. Only then will we be freed from our demonic passions and hear our Lord say to us, "O great is thy faith: be it unto thee as thou wilt!" Amen.