THE CANAANITE WOMAN'S JOURNEY OF FAITH
The Canaanite Woman
20th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR A
I have once narrated this story in one of my blogs. It goes:
An elderly lady was well-known for her faith and for her boldness in talking about it. She would stand on her front porch and shout "PRAISE THE LORD!"
Next door to her lived an atheist who would get so angry at her proclamations he would shout, "There is no Lord!!"
Hard times set in on the elderly lady, and she prayed for GOD to send her some assistance. She stood on her porch and shouted "PRAISE THE LORD. GOD I NEED FOOD!! I AM HAVING A HARD TIME. PLEASE LORD, SEND ME SOME GROCERIES!!"
The next morning the lady went out on her porch and noted a large bag of groceries and shouted, "PRAISE THE LORD!"
The neighbor jumped from behind a bush and said, "Aha! I told you there is no Lord. I bought those groceries, God didn't."
The lady started jumping up and down and clapping her hands and said, "PRAISE THE LORD. He not only sent me groceries, but He made the devil pay for them. Praise the Lord!"
How faithful are we to Christ? On what level are we in terms of our faith in God? Let me highlight the Canaanite woman’s journey towards her faith and conversion:
1. The First Step involves her Faith Intention. As a mother, this woman’s sensibilities could have been struck so deeply. For one, she is so desperate seeking a cure for her daughter and so she went the extra mile to ask Jesus for healing which could have been her last resort. At the periphery, her intention was brought about by her concern for her daughter’s condition and safety.
In that level of faith, Jesus gave her a response of silence as if Jesus cannot find sincerity in her intentions. Furthermore, His disciples, annoyed by her, wanted to get rid of the woman. And so Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel!” (Matthew 15:24)
Surprising as it may seem, but the level of faith of this woman has yet to deepen. Given her situation being one: an outsider; and two, having a faith out of sheer need, we could understand Jesus’ response. At times, this happens to us too. We turn to Jesus for the wrong reasons ONLY IN TIMES when we are on crisis. Jesus, like how the woman treated Him, becomes a LAST RESORT. Jesus’ response is but a natural tendency. Christ looks for a faith that’s AUTHENTIC and ENTIRE and not a faith that’s SELECTIVE.
2. The Second Step involves her Persistence in Faith. Now the woman becomes persistent and falls on her knees in front of Jesus crying out, “Lord, help ME!” (Matthew 15:25) (Remember St. Peter Peter saying these very words from last Sunday’s Gospel). What is noteworthy at this stage is that she persisted despite of all the rejections she’s getting left and right.
And so, in this level of faith, Jesus tells her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” (Matthew 15:26) Now wait a minute, Jesus calling the woman a “dog?” From rejections upfront and now being called a “dog,” this could have added up to her humiliation but the woman did not give up. What is more striking is that the woman’s level of faith suddenly shifted from a faith “for her daughter” to become “her own” personal faith when she said, “Lord, help ME!”
Last Sunday, I narrated the story about a son who went to me for confession after 30 long years. He told me that he was moved to confess realizing his father’s impending death. He was shook to his core and going to confession was for him the best way to turn back to the faith. Our faith is shaken by certain crisis/es in our lives, but let us take it/them as God’s way of reminding us of our personal faith in Him and do everything in our capacity to strengthen it through our experiences.
3. The Final Step involves her winning the very Heart of Christ. In humility with her face bowed low, she has nothing left to herself not even his pride. “Please, Lord,” she softly insists, “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters. (Matthew 15:27) At this very level, it clearly implies that she considers herself part of the household of Jesus, one of the children of God. Was not Jesus’ mission for ALL PEOPLE, not just the Israelites? Was Jesus’ mission universal in the first place?
Furthermore, she claims for herself to deserve nothing from Christ. “But,” she asks, “how about giving me leftovers that accidentally fall from your abundance?” (as implied in Matthew 15:27) With that, Jesus was moved with pity for her. The woman, obviously, won Jesus’ heart out of her persistence and strong faith in Him.
The key to Jesus’ sympathy to the woman lies on her unshakable faith. No matter what happens and regardless of what other people says about her, she persisted in her faith. It was faith that was indeed TRUE and DIVINE; a faith that COMPLETELY trusts God. Jesus sees His future in the face of this woman, who will later on suffer in humiliation by bearing the cross. Her three- step journey of faith reflected that of Christ.
God came among us both for physical and spiritual healing. As He comes to us, He appeals to our faith. The Canaanite woman came to Jesus in faith and in search for healing for her daughter and found it. It wasn’t easy, but she earned it. Out task primarily it to live a life-story just like hers and to grow in such faith that even God Himself could not refuse.