Aug. 3, 2016

The Canaanite Woman: Mother's humiliation

"Woman, you have great faith. Let your desire be granted" (Matt.15:28)

Three women strike me particularly in the New Testament because of their faith, humility and sacrifice for their children and indeed for the entire humanity. One is the mother of the sons of Zebedee who pleads on behalf of her sons (Matt.20:20-23). Next is the Canaanite woman whom we x-ray in this reflection (Matt.15:21-28). Above all of them is the Blessed Virgin Mary who sacrificed for all of us and whose Magnificat summarized the virtues of faith, humility and patience in the life of mothers (Lk.1:46-55). The mother of Zebedee's sons makes this list simply because of her concern for her sons, her desire to have them placed in good positions beside our Lord.

However, the Canaanite woman makes a strong case for motherhood. She approaches Jesus with the request, "Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil". Her interest is in having her daughter freed from evil, for that reason she asks Jesus to have pity on her. The first reaction of the disciples of Jesus could have discouraged this woman. The disciples request Jesus to send her away. Then Jesus puts it to her that she is a stranger, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Matt.15:25). This is the first test- her faith, then her patience.

One would have expected this woman to shun Jesus. Did she need to be reminded that she wasn't of the Israelite stock before receiving help? Rather she came closer, bowed before Jesus, and asked him to help her. Then came the blow. Jesus said to her, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to little dogs". The woman remained at Jesus' feet. She knew exactly what she wanted. She knew where to get it. It's only the Lord that could give her what she wanted; "heal my daughter, that's all".

This is the test of humility. And she won. "Ah yes, Lord; but even little dogs eat the scraps that fall from their master's table" (Matt.15:27). What an expression of humility and perseverance. This prompted Jesus to say to her, "Woman, you have great faith. Let what you desire be granted". And her daughter was healed.

Our Blessed Virgin Mary stated in the Magnificat, "For he has looked on the humiliation of his servant..." (Lk.148). Christ looked on the humiliation of the Canaanite woman and granted her the desire of making her daughter well. Awesome faith, awesome patience!

Mothers go through a lot for their children. They face sufferings, pain and denial for love of their children. Mothers recognize the importance of faith, sacrifice, patience and humility in carrying out their task, and they stick to it. As a mother, your faith has to be tried. It has to be tested. It has to endure the sufferings of motherhood in order to bear fruit for your family. The Canaanite woman is an inspiration to all mothers going through tough times for their family today. Jesus will surely tell you in the end, "Woman, let what you desire be granted".