In today’s Gospel on face value it seems Our Lord is being very harsh with the Canaanite woman. The First Reading reminds us that there was bad blood in the past between the Israelites and the Canaanites: the first generation of Israelites were so scared of them that they didn’t enter the Promised Land and continued to journey in the desert for forty years. Jesus is not just being driven by the prejudices of his time: when the Centurion asked him for help, another pagan, he didn’t hesitate (see Matthew 8:5–13). Jesus during his earthly ministry concentrated on the Jewish people; later his Apostles and disciples would bring the Gospel beyond the confines of Judaism, as is narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. So the conversation with the Canaanite woman is very similar to the Wedding Feast at Cana when Mary asked him to do something about the wine situation and he said, “my hour has not yet come” (see John 2:4).
Our Lord is having this conversation in front of all his disciples so that they could see that even someone who’d not been prepared to believe could believe. Like his response to Mary in the Wedding Feast at Cana, here he was inviting the Canaanite woman to offer something more: greater faith and humility. The Canaanite woman rose to the occasion that Jesus congratulated her on her faith and healed her daughter, not only to her benefit but to that of the disciples as well.
We can easily fall into rash judgments about others and their actions. We can pigeonhole them into caricatures or stereotypes. But Our Lord wants to bring the Gospel to everyone in their situation, with their strengths and defects, and lead them to Our Heavenly Father. Let’s ask for the grace to go beneath the surface of those we meet and help them to know the Gospel as well.
Readings: Numbers 13:1–2, 25–14:1, 14:26a–29a, 34–35; Psalm 106:6–7b, 13–14, 21–23; Matthew 15:21–28.