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.
In the course of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus regularly reprimands the Apostles as “men of little faith.” He even goes so far as to rebuke Peter and call him Satan. It must have come as a shock, then, when Jesus lauds the Canaanite woman for her GREAT faith. At first, Jesus gave this pesky woman the cold shoulder, the disciples tell her to get lost, and Jesus dismisses her as a dog unworthy of his time and attention. She is “outside” the scope of Jesus’ mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And yet her persistent faith and love on behalf of her possessed daughter move Jesus to grant her request.
This story of the persistent Canaanite woman invites us to the same kind of faith in Jesus and challenges us to recognize faith outside the confines of our established “in” group. The fact of the matter is that you and I were originally outsiders. We owe the Canaanite woman a debt of gratitude for begging for scraps from the table of Israel. Her “great faith” has gotten us a seat at the table.
—Fr. Ed Witt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Province and pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, SD.
Lord Jesus, you granted the request of the Canaanite woman because of her persistence. Hear our prayers and grant what we seek, in your time and in your way. Help us to persevere in prayer always. Amen.
—The Jesuit Prayer team