The Faith of an Outsider

Matthew 15:21-28
Jer 31:1-7 / Jer 31

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

Three things we have to remember
When we seek God’s help in prayer:
Persistence, total surrender,
And faith in His love and power.

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

Traditionally, the Jews had always believed that they were the Chosen People, their race favored by God, as made known by the prophets: “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they will be my people.” (Jer.31:1) But Jesus came to change this narrow perspective, and perhaps this was the reason He came to this region of the Gentiles, to set an example for His disciples. The tradition of their Jewish leaders kept them from believing in Jesus, but here was a pagan woman who believed that Jesus was the Messiah Who could heal her daughter. Here was a portent of things to come.

The Canaanite woman reminds me of a former housemaid of my parents, who was always coming to my office to seek financial help for her innumerable problems. Her meager salary as a street sweeper could not make ends meet. For me she had become a pest, putting my Christian values to the test. One trying Monday morning, after two people had come to ask for help, she could not have come at the worst time. Coming through the door 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 explained that she had no one else to turn to for P150.00 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 meager amount.

Today’s passage provides a number of lessons: 1) like Jesus in today’s Gospel, we must always be sensitive to the needs of others, whatever their status in life; 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 pagan woman) often gets in the way of helping others; and 4) in the end, persistence 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, in her tribe being referred to as dogs.

God’s primary plan in our life is the development of our faith, which will never be tested under normal conditions. Trials and troubles are part of its growth. God wants us to remove all doubts, prejudices, and negative attitudes in our hearts when we are in a trying situation, whether we are in the giving or in the receiving end. He wants us to trust Him, to believe that His plans are always for our own good.

Lord, let our faith be like that of the Canaanite woman, full of perseverance and fortitude. For nothing is too great or too small for the miracle of Your love. Amen.

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