THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
Tired of the crowds and the Pharisees with their cunning attacks, our Lord left the Jews and went into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon. Why? Humanly speaking, he was quite simply fed up with the ruses of the Jews, especially the Pharisees. But divinely speaking, he went to the land of Tyre and Sidon to reveal the Universal Kingdom of God to the pagans who lived there.
These two towns which still exist today were not Jewish in origin, but Syro-Phenician and Greek. In other words they were pagan. Indeed, the woman with whom today's Gospel is concerned was also a pagan, a Canaanite. When she first spoke to the Saviour, the disciples, who were Jews, naturally would have nothing to do with her and wanted her sent away. But the Lord considered that she belonged to the lost sheep of the House of Israel, and that therefore she should speak and so His Divine mission to the 'lost sheep of the House of Israel' should be revealed.
We should note that the Canaanite women recognised that her daughter had a devil. She did not make up some story, full of excuses and blame, that her daughter was ill. No, she had faith and recognised the demons for what they are. Here, we see the faith of the Canaanite woman, for although she had suffered the bigotry and prejudice of the Jews, yet she was still willing to plead for the help of a Jew, the help of Christ, calling Him 'Thou Son of David'.
It would seem to us that Christ's reply to her, virtually calling her a dog, was very hard. In fact, of course, He was merely testing her reaction and thus revealing her faith, a faith greater than that of the Jews, especially the Pharisees, with whom He had recently spoken. Indeed, the Canaanite woman was not insulted by Christ's words. Instead, in all humility, she replied that even dogs are glad to eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the Master. Thus she had shown not only faith, but also humility
At once she was rewarded with the healing of her daughter at a distance, a miraculous healing, like that of the servant of the centurion, miracles which can take place only through the might of the Saviour, Who overcomes the barriers of space and time to heal. Thus we see that for any miracle to take place, we first need faith and then humility, the faith and humility of the Canaanite woman, who asks for Christ's mercy and help.
However, if we go further and penetrate into the inner meaning of this miracle of faith and humility, we will find even deeper significance.
This miracle occurred in the land of Tyre and Sidon. Now, scholars tell us that the word 'Tyre' means 'beseiged'. And the daughter of the Canaanite woman was exactly in that situation - she was beseiged by demons. Indeed the pagan world as a whole was beseiged by demons whom it even worshipped.
And the word 'Sidon' means 'those who seek'. And there were those in the pagan world who did just that - they did seek, for they were not so engrossed in vice that they could not, like the Canaanite woman, still seek the truth.
Finally, the word 'Canaan' means 'prepared by humility'. And that is precisely the case of the Canaanite woman. For if we are beseiged by demons and we seek, prepared by humility, then we shall find Christ, as did the Canaanite woman from Tyre and Sidon.
Here we should be careful for there are those who seek and do not find. This is because they are not prepared by humility. They are indeed doing the opposite of seeking, they are 'self-seeking', in other words seeking only to dominate through pride and seeking to intrigue through selfishness. They are not seeking the healing of their soul, for in their pride they do not even acknowledge it to be ill.
Today's Gospel then has a universal significance, especially for today's neo-pagan world. For today's world is like Tyre 'beseiged' by demons. Part of it is content to remain like that. Part of it seeks its own advantage in such a situation. But part of it is genuinely coming out from Sidon, 'seeking' and 'prepared by humility'. That part is ready to accept even the crumbs that fall from the table of the Master. And what are those crumbs? They are the crumbs of the Bread of Life, the Body of Christ, the Eucharist of the Church. This is available to all who seek with humility through prayer, fasting and confession. And those who seek thus, will assuredly find.
Let us this day, like the Canaanite woman, also cry out:
Have mercy on us, O Lord! Lord help us!