18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday, Year II

The Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel shows a lot of courage in the quest to free her daughter from being afflicted by a demon. Canaanites and Jews had a long history, and they did not get along. Our Lord was a Jew, but also a miracle worker, so she decided to try. In her first attempt to greet Our Lord she even used the Messianic title, “Son of David”: for the people of the time it was not clear that the Messiah would be a good thing for anyone who was not a Jew. Perhaps she was trying to butter him up a little.

Our Lord responds as she probably expected: the cold shoulder. However, we know Our Lord can read hearts, so this was not a simple brush off; something more profound was going on. When the disciples press him regarding the matter, he tells them it’s not time yet for his ministry to go beyond the children of Israel. Israel had a special role in the plan of salvation and Our Lord was sent to attend to them; the rest would be attended to later. In a sense, the Canaanite woman was trying to skip the line.

When Our Lord rebuffs her again she is not shy about acknowledging that she is not entitled to what she is requesting. Sometimes we forget that Our Lord doesn’t have to give us anything. Yet Our Lord rewards her faith and humility in the end. Let’s ask Our Lord for what we need, thankful that he’ll consider our petition and humble that we aren’t entitled to it.

Readings: Jeremiah 31:1–7; Jeremiah 31:10–12b, 13; Matthew 15:21–28. See also 18th Week in Ordinary Time, Wednesday.