Devotional based on texts taken from the Scripture Readings of Fourth Sunday of Fifty days Lent – Canaanite Woman
“O Physician who have come to visit Your people which was lost, heal my daughter! Be like David, Your father, who by the sound of the harp put to flight the Evil One.”
This morning is the fourth Sunday of the Great Lent – the Sunday of the Canaanite woman. While we go about our daily affairs in the world on the outside, on the inside the Lenten Fast is leading us in retreat from the vain noise of the world and into stillness of soul to stand in the presence of God just as did the Canaanite woman in today’s Gospel.
Jesus was journeying through the borderland of Tyre and Sidon when a Canaanite woman came out to meet Him, beseeching, “Lord have pity on me, my daughter is tormented by an evil spirit.” In Christ the Canaanite woman saw relief. With tears and supplications she approached Him and begged Him: “Firstborn of the Father, deliver the image of Your Majesty, my daughter, from the clutches of the wicked oppressor that she may have an inheritance with You and that she may become the dwelling place of Your glory, You who came to save the image which your hands had fashioned.”
How does Jesus respond to her? He completely ignores her. It says, “He did not answer her at all.” How often do we bring our concerns, our pleas for help, to God and we hear nothing? No answer, no sign of hope, nothing comes our way. Either in desperation or in anger, we begin shouting at God and still nothing. Do we give-up at this point? The Canaanite woman does not. Even after Jesus’ disciples tell Him to send her away, she draws very near to Him and kneels before Jesus saying, “Lord, help me.” Does Christ help her now? She’s persistent, she’s humble and she’s self-less, asking for someone else’s healing. He should heal her now, right? Christ responds by saying, “No.” Worse yet, He likens her to a dog, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” How often has God told us, “No”? How often have we felt that He is even kicking us while we are down? Do we give up at this point?
The Canaanite woman does not. Accepting Jesus’ canine label, she does not accept His rebuke but comes back at Him with some profound words, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” In other words, “I am not giving up. I will take whatever little you will offer to me.” How does Jesus respond this time? Finally, He openly acknowledges her great faith and grants her wish and heals her daughter instantly.
St. John Chrysostom asked, “Was she silent and did she desist? By no means, she was even more insistent.” Chrysostom pointed out Jesus knew she would say this. Jesus wanted to “exhibit her high self-command.” She went even a step further, demonstrating her profound humility by not calling the Jews children, as Jesus had done, but “master” (Homily LII, on St. Matthew XV).
This miracle occurred in the land of Tyre and Sidon. Now, scholars tell us that the word ‘Tyre’ means ‘besieged.’ And the daughter of the Canaanite woman was exactly in that situation – she was besieged by demons. And the word ‘Sidon’ means ‘those who seek.’ Finally, the word ‘Canaan’ means ‘prepared by humility.’ And that is precisely the case of the Canaanite woman. For if we are besieged by demons and we seek, prepared by humility, then we shall find Christ, as did the Canaanite woman. This might be a far stretched explanation, but it does carry some truth. To follow the Canaanite woman’s lead we too must be committed to Christ with all our heart. We have to be persistent, tenacious, stubborn, undiscourageable and joyful. Our Lord often acts in way in order to test the strength of our faith. Even if Jesus seems to put up a decisive refusal, we must redouble our faith, come near to Him, worship Him and beg for His help. We must be like Abraham who pleaded five times with the Lord to spare Sodom and Gomorrah on behalf of the few righteous people that remained among the abominable sinners. We must be like Jacob who struggled with God and was rewarded for his effort.
The question we must ask ourselves is do we give up our faith in God when He does not answer. We must trust God that whatever answer He gives and whenever He gives it, He does it to build our character, to make us stronger, to deepen our appreciation for Him and everything we have. Listen to the Lord’s silence and follow where His rebuke would take you. It will take you into your heart, and it will heal you. It will make you one with the Lord who made himself one with us, so that in Christ, we may offer ourselves to God on behalf of all and for all, for the salvation of all.
“Merciful Physician who do not turn away from the sick, visit Your servant whom Satan oppresses.” The Lord said: “Go, your desire is fulfilled.” Blessed is He who by His word delivers His servants from rebellious spirits. Let us this day, like the Canaanite woman, also cry out: Have mercy on us, O Lord! Lord help us! Amen.
“If man does not raise his hands in prayer for himself and for the sake of his people, even after knowing God, how can we say man is better than animals who are not wise and cannot think about their future.” – St. Gregorios of Parumala
“Do you fast? Then feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, visit the sick, do not forget the imprisoned, have pity on the tortured, comfort those who grieve and who weep, be merciful, humble, kind, calm, patient, sympathetic, forgiving, reverent, truthful and pious, so that God might accept your fasting and might plentifully grant you the fruits of repentance.” – St. John Chrysostom