Thus says the Lord: Observe what is right, do what is just; for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.
The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to Him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming His servants - all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.(P) The word of the Lord.
May God have pity on us and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us. So may your way be known upon Earth; among all nations, your salvation. (R)
May the nations be glad and exult because you rule the peoples in equity; the nations on the Earth you guide. (R)
May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you! May God bless us, and may all the ends of the Earth fear Him! (R)
Brothers and sisters: I am speaking to you Gentiles. In as much as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I glory in my ministry in order to make my race jealous and thus save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable. Just as you once disobeyed God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now disobeyed in order that, by virtue of the mercy shown to you, they too now receive mercy. For God delivered all to disobedience, that He might have mercy upon all.(P) The word of the Lord.
At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, "Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon." But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. Jesus' disciples came and asked him, "Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us." He said in reply, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me." He said in reply, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters." Then Jesus said to her in reply, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
Today's gospel is probably one of the accounts in the New Testament of the Bible that many people might find rather disturbing. Because in the account we see Jesus doing something entirely unusual and uncharacteristic of him. First of all, Jesus, along with his disciples, for the first time, visited Tyre and Sidon, which were identified as typical Gentile and non-Jewish regions in Jesus' time. Until then, he had spent most of the time of his ministry in the region of Galilee which was mostly Jewish. Tyre and Sidon were fifty miles north of Israel, and today they are part of Southern Lebanon.
In Chapter 10 of the gospel of Matthew, we learn that Jesus sent the apostles out on a mission with instructions that they should not "go into Gentile or pagan territory, nor enter any Samaritan towns, but rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel", Matthew (10:5-6). That's to say, the disciples were to stay away from people who were not Jews. But now Jesus was visiting a Gentile region, contrary to his own instructions to his disciples. One might well wonder why Jesus visited a Gentile territory.
From the circumstances surrounding Jesus at the time, we can assume five good reasons for him to break his own commands:
A woman, who had probably heard about all the wonderful works of Jesus, approached him, and was desperately crying out to him to heal her terminally ill daughter. Jesus paid no attention to her, and his disciples, who probably saw her as a nuisance, wanted Jesus to send her away. But the woman refused to give up, even when Jesus tried to ignore her. Here, no doubt, Jesus seemed to be indifferent, for Jesus did not always have to be asked before he showed compassion to others. There are scripture passages that tell us how Jesus at times, moved with compassion, would immediately respond to a need without being asked. But there was a problem here. The woman was a Gentile and moreover, was a Canaanite, the ancestral enemies of the Jews.
As a non-Jew, she did not enjoy the privileges of God's chosen people. That's to say, she was an alien, deprived of privileges. She had no legitimate claim on the Messiah. But there was one thing Jesus had to do first; He must test the true faith of this woman. So, he turned to her and said, "It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs".
Some might ask why Jesus referred to her as a dog. Taken out of context, and especially in English, it is easy to mistake this for an insult. In the flow of the story, however, it is very clear Jesus used a disparaging metaphor to explain the priorities of his ministry. Scholars point out that "dog" or "kuon" in Greek, in Jesus' days were unclean animals and considered by most as scavengers, often lean, savage, and diseased.
They were seldom kept as household pets as they are today. Sometimes the same word kuon was also used as a common derogatory term to refer to one's enemies, and so the Jews used the term for Gentiles indicating their unclean status by Jewish law. In fact, dogs were strongly associated with uncleanliness and so were wolves and swine in ancient Israel. Particularly, it was prophesied that dogs would lick Ahab's blood, 1 Kings (22:37-38), and eat Jezebel's flesh, 2 Kings (9:35-36). So, at this point, Jesus used the word kuon not out of disrespect to her, nor to discriminate her, but to test her faith and, to make the woman and the disciples understand that his duty, first and foremost, was to the people of Israel and not to the Gentiles.
Recklessly taking from Israel, in violation of God's plan, would be like a father taking food from his children to throw to the dogs. But the woman apparently was not the least bit offended, not even when Jesus implied that she was a dog. She remained humble, and persisted with her plea by saying, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters", Matthew (15:27).
One might wonder why she did not argue with Jesus nor was she offended by Jesus. She was able to break through the discouraging words that came her way because:
Let us note here that we only hear of two Gentiles, in fact, the only people that Jesus acknowledged as having great faith. One was the Canaanite woman and the other was the Roman centurion who wanted his servant healed, Matthew (8:10).
What is the message for us?
This is the approach we all need to have as we go to Jesus for answers to all our problems. First of all, we should love and show concern for other people in trials, tears, pain, suffering, sickness, afflictions and calamities of life. Secondly, we should pray for those who are suffering. God appreciates people who pray fervently for other people faced with trials. Thirdly, we should have patience not to grow bitter and lose heart. When we feel that God is silent or absent or far away, it's always good to say a prayer for patience. Fourthly, we must trust in the Lord with all our heart, believing He will not fail or forsake us. God is unchanging. Lastly, we should be cheerful, hopeful in Christ, in spite of tragedies, misfortunes and negative circumstances. God loves a cheerful heart.(P) Amen.
God Bless You!