Faith Conquers Prejudice

Matthew 15: 21-28
Nm 13 / Ps 106

Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.
(Matthew 15:28)

God always tests our fidelity
Before our prayers are granted;
Those who pray in all humility
Will never be disappointed.

Jesus and His disciples came to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.” “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour. (Matthew 15:21-28)

Reflection

A pagan woman, considered by the Jews to be ‘unclean’, approached Jesus for help. For one who was not of Israel’s tribe, a “Canaanite dog,” she showed that from her heart came the virtues of courage, humility, perseverance, reverence and great faith that would have shamed the Pharisees and scribes who earlier confronted our Lord.

The Canaanite woman reminds me of the former housemaid of my parents, who was always coming to my office to seek financial help for her innumerable problems. She was now working as a street sweeper, and her meager salary could not make ends meet. For me she had become a pest, putting my Christian values to the test. One trying Monday, she could not have come at the worst time. Coming into my office unannounced, I scolded her for the intrusion. She said it was only for a small favor. “But why does it always have to be me?!” I almost shouted at her. Crying now, she tried to explain that she had no one else to turn to for notarial fees to help her detained son. It was then that I realized how my prejudice had compromised my sense of charity for such a small amount.

That incident with the persistent poor woman brought home a number of lessons: 1) Like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we must always be sensitive to the needs of others, whatever their status; 2) A mother’s love for her offspring will endure and overcome all tests and trials; 3) Prejudice or bias (like the apostles’ attitude to the woman) often gets in the way of helping others; and 4) In the end, perseverance always pays. Let us learn from the Canaanite woman. Four times her faith was tested: first, in Jesus’ silence; then the apostles’ remark to send her away; third, Jesus’ words, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel”; and finally, referring to Canaanites as dogs.

Foremost in God’s plan in our life is the development of our faith, which would never mature under pampered conditions. Trials and troubles are part of its growth. And if we are impatient about God’s response to our prayers, just consider His promise to Abraham, which took 17 years before Isaac was born. Or the sorrows of Mary and Martha, whose brother Lazarus died because Jesus had not arrived as they requested Him. But God had more important reasons for His delay. God wants us to remove all doubts, prejudices, and negative attitudes in our hearts and minds; He wants us to trust Him, to believe that His plans are far better than the good that we seek.

Lord, help us grow in our faith and perseverance; take away all our prejudices. Amen.

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