Sermon ~ Sunday of the Canaanite Woman

ED: Below is the text of my Sermon for the Sunday of the Canaanite Woman.  I ended up not using the first two paragraphs but I kept them as part of the text as I believe it is important.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sunday of the Canaanite Woman
St. Michael Orthodox Church Southbridge
Matthew 15:21-28
On January 25th Orthodox Hieromonk Basilios Nassar was shot by an armed terrorist group in Hama, Syria on the second day of heavy fighting. Fr. Basilios was at the Metropolis when he was informed by a phone call that a parishioner of his was shot and needed assistance. The Patriarchate of Antioch has reported that the 30-year-old priest was shot while giving medical aid to the wounded man who was previously shot. Fr. Basilios was shot in the chest and in the right armpit. Immediately another priest, Fr. Panteleimon Isa, who was with him dragged his bloody body to a nearby building to save him, but the martyr for Christ Father Basilios was dead within 30 minutes from hemorrhaging. His funeral took place, January 26th, in the Church of Saint George in Hama. The blessed Father Basilios, known in the world as Mazin, was born in 1982 in the village of Kfarmpo in Hama and was a graduate of the Theological School of Balamand. He was also a teacher of Byzantine Music in the school Saint Kosmas the Melodist which he founded in the Metropolis.
Fr. Basilios is not the first Orthodox priest killed in the Middle East and unfortunately he will not be the last! He is a true example of what it means to love ones neighbor. He must have known that he might become a victim himself when he left the office to render aid to a parishioner, he must have known that there was the possibility that he would be killed yet he went anyway because a brother was in need.
People will do amazing things when someone we love is in need of help. We have an example of this in today’s Gospel on this Sunday of the Canaanite Woman. The unnamed woman comes to Jesus seeking help for her daughter who is sick. Such love she has for her daughter that she has taken the illness on herself and she cries out “Have Mercy on me!” She sees in her daughter’s well-being her own well-being. She calls after Jesus and he ignores her but she keeps on coming at Him. She can teach us many things about our spiritual lives.
The first thing she teaches us in our Christian vocation to reconcile all humankind to God is courage. Given her position as a foreigner and as a woman, it took phenomenal courage on her part to decide to take on the all-Jewish and all-male company of Jesus and his disciples. She was so small that, even though she addresses Jesus by his proper Messianic titles: “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David” (verse 22), Jesus still ignored her: “He did not answer her at all” (verse 23a). Most people at this point would give up and accept defeat. But not our Canaanite sister. Rather she intensifies her efforts and embarks on a one-woman demonstration to the point that the disciples had to ask Jesus to do something about it: “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us” (verse 23b). Her courage and her refusal to take no for an answer finally paid off.
The second thing we can learn from this woman is focus or what St. Paul calls “keep your eyes on the prize.” When Jesus spoke to her in language that demeaned her people: “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (verse 26), she did not lose her cool but kept her eyes on the goal of her mission, which is to show that even non-Jews are entitled to God’s blessing in Christ. Our sister knew that if she gave Jesus a piece of her mind at that moment, that would jeopardize her mission and she might lose what she came for. But with focus and with her eyes on the prize, she made it.
Finally, it was Jesus who gave in: “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (verse 28) and the woman got what she wanted. The message of this single woman outsider to every one of us today is: Be not afraid. Be not afraid to challenge prejudice and falsity even in high places, even in religious high places. The least among us can be a vehicle that God can use to bring justice and healing to all of God’s disadvantaged daughters and sons all over the world.
What is the message of the Canaanite Woman for each of us here today? The message is “Be Not Afraid.” If we have trust in God, and I don ‘t mean trust only when things are going well, but real trust in God then we need not fear for God is with us always. God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and his love for us is unending and will never fail. Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be open.

1 Comment

  1. If I had been in church to hear this, I'm sure I would have been in tears. I had not read this passage since having my daughter and certainly understand the motivation to get to Jesus. Well said.

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