17th August – 20th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

Our Gospel today (Matt 15:21-28) is about an example of great faith. It is interesting to noteCanaanite-woman-of-faith that in Matthew’s gospel the greatest models of faith are people who are not Jewish at all – the Wise Men, the Roman Centurion and this Canaanite woman.

Jesus has arrived in the district of Tyre and Sidon (v21) and is approached by a Canaanite woman. She is clearly agitated and distressed; she ‘cries out’ to him. There is every reason why this woman should have avoided Jesus – women were regarded as second class citizens in the ancient world and a woman would not have addressed a strange man, not to mind somebody in the position of a teacher. In addition there was the barrier of race – she was a gentile and Jesus was a Jew.

But the woman ignores these barriers and asks for help. She has a serious problem and is desperate. She believes that Jesus is Israel’s Messiah: ‘Son of David, take pity on me’ is a reference to the Messianic promises made to King David in 2 Samuel 7 about the year 1000BC. This is repeated in the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to Mary: “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Then the woman states her problem: ‘My daughter is tormented by a devil.’ This Canaanite woman was convinced that Jesus had the power and was willing to help her so she poured out her request. She even argued with him. So convinced was she that this Saviour was merciful and concerned about her that she persisted in her request. Her conviction led her to plead and argue.

Even when she was discouraged by Jesus – in a way that almost seems harsh to us today – and discouraged by the disciples, she persisted in trusting that Jesus would be willing to help her. Weak faith is faith that gives up easily. Strong faith is that which does not give up easily. She builds her case upon the mercy of Jesus. Great faith is a matter of holding on to the character, goodness and promises of God.

Jesus is pleased when she persists in her request and she gets what she wants: ‘Woman, you have great faith. Let your wish be granted.’ The contemplative Thomas Merton said: ‘Ultimately faith is the only key to the universe. The final meaning of human existence and the answers to the questions on which all our happiness depends cannot be found in any other way.’ (Bible Alive)

Lord, may I emulate the faith of the Canaanite woman in the way that she was so full of humility and so courageous in her approach to you. Help me to believe that you want to help in the problems I face in my life. AMEN

Liz is yet to find a solution to her problem!