CANAANITE WOMANS FAITH (Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.)

Both Matthew and Mark narrate the story of the Canaanite womans faith. While Matthew identifies the unnamed person as a Canaanite woman Mark identifies her as a Gentile woman, born in the region of Phoenicia. These identifications are complementary. A Canaanite is a Greek. In the Bible a Greek is referred as a Gentile to distinguish the Greeks from the Jews. We do not have the name of Canaanite Greek woman, or of her husband or of her daughter.

Both Matthew and Mark present her as a mother of a daughter who has a demon and who is in a terrible condition (Mt 15, 23). Mark says that her daughter had an evil spirit in her (Mk 7, 25). According to biblical scholar Ronald Brownrigg in Whos Who the New Testament the expression possessed by an unclean spirit is the common term for describing epilepsy. Obviously the mother is greatly worried about the terrible condition of her daughter.

Jesus and his close disciples came to the foreign territory of Tyre and Sidon, which was part of the Roman Province of Syria, probably seeking peace and quietness after his busy ministry among the crowds of people at the lake side of Galilee.

But Jesus name and fame has reached the foreign territory much before his visit. When the Syro-Phoenician woman came to know about Jesus visit, she at once came to Jesus appealing for the cure of her daughter.

The conversation between the Canaanite woman and Jesus is very interesting and revealing. She addresses Jesus as Son of David. It is a very loaded title for Jesus. As John L. McKenzie says in Dictionary of the Bible, the title Son of David indicates the messianic character of Jesus as seen in the primitive Church (p.180).

In calling Jesus Son of David the woman acknowledges Jesus as a Messiah and with strong faith she pleads with Jesus, Have mercy on me, sir! Then without pausing for a response, she tells Jesus about her daughter, My daughter has a demon and is in a terrible condition (Mt. 15, 22).

Jesus does not respond to her in anyway. In fact, Jesus seems to be positively ignoring the woman in spite of her persistent pleading!

But the woman is not put out by the refusal of Jesus to listen and respond to her. But the disciples are concerned with the persistence of the woman and Jesus refusal to attend to her. So Matthew writes, His disciples came to him and begged him, Send her away! She is following us and making all this noise! (Mt. 15, 23).

The woman is persistent. She continues to pester Jesus that even the disciples are forced to intervene on her behalf. Send her away! She is following us

When the disciples join the woman in her pleading Jesus answered them, I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel (Mt 15, 24). First, Jesus turned deaf ear to the woman and now the ever loving and compassionate Jesus seems to be repulsing the woman. Or is he trying the womans faith?

The woman did not feel offended by the repulsing words of Jesus. On the contrary, she seems to have sensed the affection and humour in the words of Jesus. So she come in front and knelt before him and continued her pleading. Help me, sir!

Jesus responded to the woman directly saying what he said earlier but using a simile. It isnt right to take the childrens food and throw it to the dogs (Mt. 15, 26).

This apparent refusal of Jesus to attend to her pressing need does not discourage the woman. She knows and believes that Jesus is able to cure her daughter. So she persists with her pleading. In stead of taking offense at Jesus words of indirectly referring to her with the word dogs or comparing her with dogs, the woman responds to Jesus saying, Thats true sir, but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters table (Mt. 15, 27).

Jesus is more than impressed by her faith. He appreciated the earnestness, the determination and above all her faith that he tells the woman proving himself as the Saviour not only of the Jews but the whole humankind: You are a woman of great faith! What you want will be done for you and the Evangelist Matthew adds, And at that very moment her daughter was healed (Mt. 15, 28).

Evangelist Mark puts it differently So Jesus said to her, Because of that answer, go back home, where you will find that the demon has gone out of your daughter! She went home and found her child lying on the bed; the demon had indeed gone out of her (Mk. 7, 29-30).

Commending on Jesus response and the womans faith, biblical scholar Herbert Lockyer in All the Woman of the Bible says, Her conquering faith exhibited the three ascending degrees of all true faith. The trial of her faith consisted of silence (15, 23), refusal (15, 24) and reproach (15, 26), all of which were intended by Christ for a benefit, loving purpose. The trial resulted in triumph, for the woman had turned a seeming rebuff into an argument in her favour, and her faith resulted in definite and practical results (p. 226). (contact the author: यह ईमेल पता spambots से संरक्षित किया जा रहा है. आप जावास्क्रिप्ट यह देखने के सक्षम होना चाहिए. )

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