Jesus tests a Gentile woman’s faith and casts a demon out of her daughter. Every Catholic man can grow in happiness by building the Virtue of Fortitude so he can always persevere in prayer and by pursuing the Virtue of Prayer so he can give God his best in prayer every day.
18th Week in Ordinary time – Wednesday – Mt 15:21-28
After clashing with the Pharisees, Jesus withdrew to the Gentile territory of Canaan. Tracing back to the time of Noah, the man Canaan was from an incestuous union of Noah’s son, Ham, and Noah’s wife; from then on, Canaan, his descendants, and the land named after him were cursed (Gen 9:18-25). The pagan Canaanite woman, by screaming for mercy for her demon-possessed daughter, demonstrates her desperation, love for her child and astounding courage and faith: Canaanites and Jews had centuries-old animosity and violent conflict; women did not approach men directly; a Canaanite pagan did not approach a Jewish rabbi. The Canaanite woman’s desperate screams for her demon-possessed daughter are an act of astounding faith; she addresses Jesus as “Lord” and “Son of David”, and begs for mercy with heart-felt faith that Jesus can heal her daughter.
Jesus ignores her screams and the disciples ask Jesus to send her away; He also ignores the disciples’ request, instead, revealing His priority are the “lost sheep of Israel” (Mt 10:5-6). The persistent woman then quietly kneels at His feet and begs for help. Surprisingly insulting, Jesus likens her and her entire people to “dogs”, filthy scavengers unworthy of holy blessings. The persistent woman humbly addresses Jesus as “Lord”, embraces Jesus’ insult of being like a scavenging dog, and obediently begs for “scraps”, like a little dog at her master’s feet.
In a stunning reversal, Jesus exclaims, “O woman, great is your faith!”; Jesus seldom uses “O” and it is an intimate encouragement to her; His use of “woman”, recognizes her dignity as one of His children. Rather than being coldly harsh, Jesus acts deliberately to test and draw out the woman’s faith, to make clear His Divinity, and to offer the disciples a lesson in how to respond to persistent souls with mercy, even Gentiles with whom Jews had ancient animosities.
Be awed by Jesus Christ
Be impressed with how Jesus, with the perfection of the Divine Prophet, draws out the pagan woman’s faith: despite the pagan woman’s act to fall at His feet and beg, Jesus offers a surprisingly Harsh Rebuke to her first request to test her faith, and Insults, comparing her (and all her people) to an unclean dog (a strong insult/curse); Divine Justice, in His condemnation of the Canaanites, Jesus confirms some cultures are diseased, rightly condemned and damnable and must be rejected by His disciples; when the woman persists in humility and faith, Jesus offers emphatic Encouragement to her and uses Divine Power to miraculously heal the woman’s daughter from afar.
Build fortitude to persevere in prayer
Realize: Unlike the persistence of the Canaanite woman, many men fail to pray or are lax in their prayer disciplines.
Believe: Reflect upon the need to Persevere in Prayer (CCC 2742-2745).
Pray: Almighty Father, help me build the Virtue of Fortitude so I seek the greatness of drawing closer to You in prayer and zealously persevere to speak, listen and accept Your will each day in prayer.
Give Jesus your best in prayer
Realize: In contrast to the Canaanite woman’s fervent prayer, a Catholic man can sometimes mindlessly crank through a list of prayers to clear his “to do list” and get to his “real” priorities.
Believe: Reflect upon the Battle of Prayer (CCC 2725-2741).
Pray: Jesus, Perfection of Prayer, help me build the Virtue of Prayer (a part of Justice) so my highest priority is to meet You in prayer each day and I strive to give you my best and undivided attention when I gratefully seek to draw close to You in prayer.