I remember when (a few years ago) I read this passage from Matthew’s gospel to my students for the first time. A few students who were really listening were surprised and perplexed by Jesus’ response to the Canaanite woman. Not fully understanding the passage myself, I had to go do some research in order to help them.
I understood that the Jews would see this woman as lesser than – or unworthy – because her people were the pagans who historically worshiped idols – not good. The disciples who were with Jesus found her to be obnoxious and annoying with her pitiful pleas for help. Jesus did not send the woman away as they requested, yet He was not very warm and friendly with her either. Perhaps, He was testing her faith by not simply giving into her right away.
I knew Jesus was not simply mild-mannered and “lovey- dovey.” After all, Jesus demonstrated righteous fury when He toppled the merchants tables when they were selling goods in the Temple. Our God is a God of mercy and love, but also of justice. However, I still had difficulty reconciling the Jesus in today’s gospel with the Jesus I have come to know.
If today’s gospel left you feeling a bit confused, here are some resources that may help you:
Today’s gospel emphasizes the importance of humility before God. Humility is the foundation of holiness. We are all called to holiness, therefore, we must conquer our pride and self- centeredness – our need for control and independence. We must seek to excel in humility so that we may fulfill our call to holiness.