At that time, Jesus went to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and cried, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely possessed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
I have mentioned before that the entire Gospel message is about faith, faith in something that is larger than us, and faith when we cannot even see what it is we have faith in. We see that this morning in his passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel.
Jesus has retired to the area of Tyre and Sidon, modern day Lebanon, for rest. He needed to retreat to a place where He was not well known for his fame had spread and not matter where He went, people would gather around Him. He also needed to find a place for His Apostles to rest. It is interesting to note that Jesus needed to find a place to rest. We see this same lesson many times in the Gospel where Jesus would retire by Himself for prayer and rest.
While there, a woman approached Him seeking help for her daughter who was sick with a demon. At first Jesus says nothing and just keeps on walking. It’s as if He did not hear her. So she becomes more persistent in her pleas for help, not for her, but for her daughter. Scripture says, she came and worshipped Him. She was not just casually passing by, “Oh there is Jesus I think I will ask Him to heal my daughter.” No, she came to worship; she showed up to pray for and ask for help for her sick daughter.
The Apostles, knowing why they had come to Tyre and Sidon, wanted Jesus to send her away. One commentary on this passage says that the Apostles wanted to Jesus to grant her request just so she would go away. They still don’t get it!
The woman says to Jesus, “Have mercy on me.” In these few words, she is showing the boundless love that she has for her daughter. She identifies with the sufferings of her daughter and in one sense make them her own. She knows that is her daughter is healed she will be made well also.
Many of you have been caregivers for sick family members. Many of you nursed your loved ones until the moment that they drew their last breath. Their illness becomes your illness and their sufferings become your sufferings. When they finally let go of their suffering there is a sense of relief that comes upon us and sometimes we feel guilty that we feel this way. In the same way that their suffering has ended, your suffering, although different, has also ended. As they pass into peace, so do we. The same is true for this mother in today’s Gospel. She has nursed her daughter and is asking for her own healing as much as her daughters.
We have an interesting turn of events at this point in the story. Jesus turns to her and tells her that he came only for the lost sheep of Israel. This is the first time we see Jesus speak in this tone to someone. It is as if He is telling her He cannot help her because she is not Jewish. But the woman does not give up. She uses the imagery of the dogs eating what falls from the table. She acknowledges her place as someone outside of the Jewish faith, and she still asks for His help.
“O woman, great is your faith,” Jesus answers her, and her tells her that her faith has made her daughter well. She came to Jesus in humble submission to the will of God, and her request was granted. This is an example to all of us.
We need to approach God in humble submission to His will and not our own. Even Jesus humbled Himself to God and did His will, not His own. This is not easy for us to do, but as we see with the Canaanite woman today it is something that we have to do.
When we pray to God for anything, we need to pray humbly and ask that it is His will that is done and not our own. When we pray to God for others, we need to ask God that His will is done and not ours. Yes, we pray and ask for healing of this person or that person, but in the end, our prayer should simply be Your will be done!
The Canaanite woman approached Jesus and humbly asked in faith that her daughter is healed. As we approach the season of Great Lent, let us also approach Jesus in humble submission to His will for our lives and simply say, Your will, not mine, be done.