“Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”

Matthew 5:28

Friday, 14 August 2020

A Canaanite woman of bold faith

Matthew 15:21-28

All we know about this unnamed woman is that she is a Canaanite. She is not Jewish, yet she believes that Jesus could heal her daughter. She is desperate for his help. Her daughter is suffering. As a mother, she will do anything to get her daughter the help she needs. Jesus treats her in a way that appears dismissive or rude. He ignores her at first.

When she persists in presenting her request, Jesus responds that he was sent only for “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. In other words, the Jewish people. “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs,” he continues. She is undeterred. If she feels insulted, she does not let it undermine her engagement but keeps her focus on getting Jesus to agree to heal her daughter. She challenges his understanding of his mission when she persists, arguing skilfully, that “even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

There is something about the woman’s determination and grit that shows her deep faith. She believes that Jesus can heal her daughter and is not about to give up. With robust debate and tenacity, her arguments change Jesus’ mind. He is impressed by her faith and heals her daughter. This is a significant moment for Jesus. It reshapes his understanding of who and what he has come for.

Where do we need to persist boldly; to keep asking for what we see is needed; to tenaciously ask God and those who have the power to make changes.

Sometimes, like Jesus in the story, we may be challenged by someone outside our usual circles to see our identity and purpose a bit differently. Am I willing to be open and allow others to do this? Or do I avoid the discomfort?

Gracious God,
Give us persistence and boldness to confront what does not make sense and what is not for the common good. May we be open to the difficult task of change in our lives.

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell

Dr Annemarie Paulin-Campbell has worked in the area of Ignatian Spirituality for 19 years and heads up the work of the Jesuit Institute School of Spirituality. Her primary focus is the training and supervision of spiritual directors and the giving of retreats. She is also a registered Psychologist and her PhD focused on the interface between Christian Spirituality and Psychology. Annemarie is an editorial advisor to “The Way” journal of Spirituality and has authored a number of articles relating to the training of Spiritual Directors in an African context. She has contributed to several books, most recently co-authoring a book of Lenten Reflections: “Long Journey to the Resurrection”. She has contributed to international conferences and consultations in Spirituality in the United Kingdom; the United States; Rome; Spain, Ethiopia, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

a.paulin-campbell@jesuitinstitute.org.za @annemariepc_c
See more from Annemarie Paulin-Campbell
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