In the course of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus regularly reprimands the Apostles as “men of little faith.” He even goes so far as to rebuke Peter and call him Satan. It must have come as a shock, then, when Jesus lauds the Canaanite woman for her GREAT faith. At first, Jesus gave this pesky woman the cold shoulder, the disciples tell her to get lost, and Jesus dismisses her as a dog unworthy of his time and attention. She is “outside” the scope of Jesus’ mission to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And yet her persistent faith and love on behalf of her possessed daughter move Jesus to grant her request.
This story of the persistent Canaanite woman invites us to the same kind of faith in Jesus and challenges us to recognize faith outside the confines of our established “in” group. The fact of the matter is that you and I were originally outsiders. We owe the Canaanite woman a debt of gratitude for begging for scraps from the table of Israel. Her “great faith” has gotten us a seat at the table.
—Fr. Ed Witt, SJ, is a member of the Midwest Province and pastor of St. Isaac Jogues Church in Rapid City, SD.