Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus.
In the Christmas season, we celebrate the birth of the Savior of all nations. However, the first to see the Christ Child were the shepherds, common men of the Jews. Then, on Epiphany, the Magi came, foreigners who worshiped Jesus.
According to the testimony of the prophets, all nations will hear the message of salvation and worship the God of Israel. Isaiah says, "I also gave you a light to the nations" (Isaiah 49:6) and "And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the splendor of your birth" (Isaiah 60:3). In Jeremiah: "The nations will be blessed in him, and in him they will glory" (Jeremiah 4:2). “All the nations you have made will worship before you” (Psalm 86:9). In the New Testament, Jesus often clashed with the Pharisees when he taught his disciples that God wanted to include non-Jews in his kingdom.
In the case of the woman from Canaan, Jesus speaks of his own ministry as limited to his countrymen, the Jews, to perfectly fulfill the old covenant with Abraham. But the work was not to be confined to the people of Judea or Palestine forever. He foretold the coming of the Gentiles into the fold (Matthew 8:11; Luke 13:29). After his resurrection and before his ascension, he gave his disciples the great mandate to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15).
This persistent Canaanite woman gets praise from Jesus for believing that he will help her daughter. At this point in Jesus' life we are less than a year away from his suffering and death. Only Matthew and Mark (7:24-30) give us this account. Saint Mark says that "the woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by nation." Which means, her mother tongue was Greek, but by descent she was a Phoenician born in Syria. The Phoenicians were descendants of the Canaanites. Even today, when Phenicia is known as Lebanon, DNA evidence shows that most Lebanese are descended from the ancient Canaanites. Therefore, Matthew calls her a Canaanite.
Clearly she confesses that he is the Messiah. She clearly reveals that she is aware of Israel's messianic hopes and that she had heard that they were being connected with Jesus as the great promised descendant of King David.
Jesus kept walking in silence while she followed him. Jesus responded to the disciples, but the woman probably heard this too. It is noteworthy that the disciples do not answer but the woman does. For the third time she addresses him as "Lord".
Jesus had said that custom dictates that it is not good to take bread from children and throw it to puppies. The woman agrees. "Yes, Lord, but the little dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters." Then answering Jesus, she said to him: "O woman, great is your faith! May it be done with you as you wish."
In the sixth petition of the Our Father, we pray that "lead us not into temptation." Temptation is the devil's attempt to draw us away from God, like the temptation of Adam and Eve and Jesus in the desert. God does not tempt us to sin. However, sometimes he tests our faith to draw us closer to him and strengthen our faith. This is the case with the Canaanite woman.
What we can learn from this is the following:
1. We must confess, like the Canaanite woman, that we do not deserve anything good at the hands of God.
2. When it seems that God is listening to us, we can be sure that he is listening and will respond in due course in his way that is best for us.
3. In time of need, we often do not ask with confidence. However, we must pray without ceasing.
Also, this example of the table should remind us of the sacrament of Holy Communion. The table prepared by God for is abundant enough so that all nations can participate in it.
The peace that surpasses all understanding be with you. Amen.
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