WHAT A GIRL WANTS
Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly. Matthew 15:28
GREAT Faith can only be borne of a great Object worthy of belief. That’s what Jesus was for the Canaanite woman, and still is for us today! He, not the woman, is the true hero of this true story. But still we must give this woman her due. She stands shoulder to shoulder with the other great women of faith. First, Mary the mother of God who died a thousand deaths as she stood before the cross of her dying Son. This should be considered the greatest act of love and valor in history; and though we do not pray to the Virgin, we should think of her as the most blessed among women, and honor her by imitating her faith. Next is Mary the sister of Lazarus who, in deepest devotion, broke open the most expensive jar of fragrance in the house, poured it on the Lord’s feet, and dried then them with her hair in preparation for His imminent burial. Jesus says of this act, “Truly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her;” so it is. We must give these women their due, along with all Christian women of the ages who never stop praying for the Lord to have mercy on their children. But as we do, let us never lose sight of Jesus who is the object of faith, and the hero of the story.
He said to the woman: I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but if that is the case what was He doing outside of Israel in Tyre, one of Israel’s most ancient and bitter foes? The answer is easy of course. He’s there because the love of Jesus embraces all people regardless of national origin or any other consideration, and He became Man in order to gain salvation for all, for Jew and Gentile alike. He is the hero of the story.
In verse twenty-two St. Matthew uses the attention marker that we must never overlook when reading Scripture, the word “behold.” By it he notes with great emphasis that a Canaanite woman, one who was born and bred in hostility towards her Jewish neighbors, recognizes Jesus as the mighty son of David, the One who is more powerful than even the demons. But how did she know this? Where did she learn it? Only one way dear Christians – the Lord’s power can never be concealed because the news is too Good, and His mercy too wonderful, and Jesus, in turn, knows that her faith is great not because of any inherent goodness in her, but because He is the focus of it.
Faith in the wrong object always ends in tears, but in this fallen world we are all too prone to believe in the wrong thing; to put our trust in money, progress, government, education the stars and in all manner of superstition besides, but this woman put her trust in no such thing. She had no doubt tried all the solutions available to save her beloved child: doctors, the ministrations of Canaanite religion, force, reason, tough-love, bribery, screaming and grounding but nothing worked. In Jesus she recognized an object worthy of her faith and because He knew the kind of faith that His pure love elicits, He felt free to stretch it, bend it, twist it and pummel it because He knew that it would not break.
Jesus is the hero of the story. He gave the faith, He is the object of it, and here He affirms it for what it is: Great! Not only this, but He also grants it what faith always obtains from God: the forgiveness of sins, and deliverance from death and the devil. By it her dear child is released from the bondage of satan, and this believing mother can once again sleep in peace. Both she and her daughter would spend the rest of their lives in thanksgiving, and their eternity singing with the church triumphant, “worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing…”
Yes, Jesus is the hero of this true story which teaches us several weighty lessons, primarily that there is no family without its problems. Some are so distressing that they consume us and even define us. Besides this we have all made beds of sin that we don’t want to lie in, and are given crosses we are certain will sift us finer than wheat. If this isn’t enough, the devil also delights in tormenting us and tempting us so that we might stop believing in Jesus and keep him company in his eternal misery, but we also learn here that Jesus is greater than the devil by orders of magnitude that tongue cannot tell, and that what He did for this woman and her dear daughter He will do for us still today. He will deliver us, strengthen and comfort us in all our trials and forever keep our faith in tact.
Let us also recall, again today, that this union we have with David’s Son comes through the channels He Himself established. In baptism He forgives us our sins and delivers from death and the devil. Those are its benefits that we learned as catechumens, and they still stand. They still stand and are further enhanced as the church gathers to hear God’s Word, receive the absolution, partake in the Blessed Sacrament, pray, praise and give thanks.
Now at this point Sinful Nature is likely to ask: What must we do to have faith like the Canaanite woman, and get an answer for all our prayers? There is nothing we can do. We can no more strengthen our faith than we can add a day to the span of our lives by being anxious. In God’s reality we are always recipients and nothing more. God provides us the means of grace and shows us what wonders they give, and the only thing we are capable of doing is to weaken our faith and put ourselves in harm’s way by staying away from God’s gifts. However as Jesus elicited the woman’s faith, the love of Christ compels us, too. He causes these wondrous gifts to call to us more loudly than all the ruckus the devil can raise to drown them out. Indeed, Jesus who is the hero of the story and the hero of our lives, says to us again today: Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, all who are sick with sin and harassed by satan, and I will give you rest. Amen.
Rev. Dean Kavouras