THE CANAANITE WOMAN
“And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.’ But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, ‘Send her away / Dismiss her (Ἀπόλυσον αὐτήν), for she is crying 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.’ And he answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s bread 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, ‘O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Mt 15: 21-28)
The disciples (that is, we, His followers), do not intercede for the Canaanite woman, nor do they beg the Lord to hear her out. No, they are annoyed with her tiresome crying after “them,“ and beg the Lord to “send her away.“ So the harsh things that the Lord says, first to the disciples (I was sent “only“ to the lost sheep of the house of Israel), and then to her, when she nonetheless manages to come and fall before Him, asking for His help, (because, please note, He does not “send her away“), are meant to school not the woman, but the disciples, or us.
The Lord gives voice, not without sarcasm, to the harsh presumption embraced by His disciples, that He was “theirs“ exclusively, and that bothersome “outsiders“ were to be shooed away from “their“ elite little club, like dogs. These were the same disciples who, on a different occasion, said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.” (Mk 9: 38) But the One Who knows our hearts also knew the heart of this courageous woman, humbled by motherly love and faith. And He knew that she could “take,“ nay, that she would shine in, this “teachable moment“ for the disciples, by her love, faith, and humility. And so she did. Thank You, Lord, for teaching us, together with this Canaanite woman, not to dismiss “outsiders,“ crying out for Your help. May I be humbled and blessed today, by her holy prayers.