The edifying example of the Canaanite woman

By Fr. Roy Cimagala

THAT story of the Canaanite woman who practically nagged Christ for the favor of driving a demon that tormented her daughter (cfr. Mt 15,21-28) teaches us the great lesson to ever strengthen our faith especially when we are faced with difficulties and challenges that look impossible to handle.

“‘O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish,’ Christ told her. “And her daughter was healed from that hour.” When we have great difficulties, we should have great faith in God too. Said in another way, difficulties can occasion the growth of our faith.

In relation to God, we may fall under very different, and even conflicting, categories. We can be believers or non-believers, friends or foes, etc., but to God we are all his children, objects always of his tremendous and gratuitous love.

No matter how the state of our relationship with God is, whether it is hot, cold or lukewarm, we should try our best to go to God, especially in some extraordinary situations. He is our last and most reliable recourse especially when we find ourselves in some impossible situations.

For this, of course, we just have to activate our faith in him, even if our belief in him at the moment is not that strong. Remember one gospel character who said, “I believe, Lord, but help my unbelief.” (Mk 9,24)

We should just be humble enough and try to clutch as tightly as possible to whatever strand of faith we may still have in God. To be sure, God always listens and acts on our importunings, even if we seem to annoy him.

We should just overcome whatever fear or shame we may have to approach God our Father. To him, we will always be a child who can give him great joy whenever we act like the lost sheep and the lost coin that are finally found or the prodigal son who has decided to return to the father.

With just a little flicker of faith and repentance, the heart of God would readily melt into compassion and mercy. In the case of the Canaanite woman, for example, Christ immediately gave in to her request when she did not relent with her request despite the apparent initial rebuke.

“It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs,” Christ told her at first. It sounds like pure insult, right? That was because being a Canaanite, the woman has no right to ask a favor from a Jesus, a Jew. That was how things worked that time. It was also because Christ was actually testing the woman of her faith.

And true enough, the woman did not take offense at the response of Christ, but went to argue her case, showing the intensity of her faith in Christ. “Please, Lord,” she said, “for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.”

At that, Christ relented, amazed at the faith of the woman. “O woman, great is your faith,” Christ said. “Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.

It’s truly a beautiful story that assures us that no matter how unworthy we are to approach God for a favor, God always listens and cares for us and will give us what is truly good for us.

May we have the same faith as that of the Canaanite woman!