Woman, You Have Great Faith!
The Gospel presents to us an encounter between Jesus and a Canaanite woman who was in distress over her daughter’s illness. She approached Jesus, pleading for the healing of her sick child. The drama that enfolded teaches us great lessons on faith, perseverance, humor, and humility. This courageous woman crossed many barriers to reach Jesus. She came into unfriendly territory and waded through an unfriendly crowd of Jews; an audience that for centuries regarded her people as dogs; to seek help from a Jewish prophet and teacher.
Screaming at the top of her lungs against every attempt to muffle her voice, she demonstrated an incredible sense of courage and humor. Even the apostles were irritated and pleaded with Jesus to do something and hopefully make her go away. Perhaps they too were embarrassed and did not want to be seen associating with a Canaanite. Jesus was aware of the commotion and the age-old enmity among the ethnic tribes. He was set to do something toward breaking those barriers and healing the wounds of hatred and division that plagued Palestine. Therefore, this encounter presented an opportunity to address the lingering issue of exclusion, hatred and division.
The plight of her child is painful to her, and she asks Jesus to take pity on her. She did something more remarkable: he reveals a deep awareness of who Christ is. She calls him, “Lord, Son of David.” She recognizes and acknowledges his sovereignty, prostrating herself before him. It is a sign of homage due only to the Almighty. She knows Jesus has the power to free her daughter from the grip of the demon, so she will insist as much as she has to. Her attitude tells us what her faith is, and the gospel account makes a point of her background.
Persistence can show a great deal of conviction and fortitude. It can say even more when faith moves one to the limits in pursuit of a desired goal. Gandhi was so convinced of the value of non-violent opposition to colonial rule that he not only obtained his goal but made the means a way of life. Mother Cambrini was so determined to establish her missionary community for poor immigrants that Pope Leo XIII simply said: “Cabrini, you have the spirit of God.” Humor is a vital ingredient of accomplishment. It brings relief to intensity, joy to earnestness, happiness to vision. A sense of humor makes the most bitter medicine palatable.
This Canaanite woman is a fascinating personality. She has daring and a sense of humor. And she ends up by being one of the most highly commended persons in the gospels. The church also exists for non-believers. We still have many negative attitudes to overcome. There is no place for discrimination, racism, stereotypes, etc. Nothing but love; for everyone should have a place at the table. To all human beings God offers his mercy, and only his mercy can bring them reconciliation. “God’s gift and his call are irrevocable.” God will continue to offer it to all human beings whoever they may be.
In His Mercy,
Rev. Vitalis Anyanike