We have this poor Canaanite woman, who must have heard with great interest of this itinerant Jewish teacher who was so famous for his healing abilities. Something was very wrong with her daughter and she knew that Jesus could bring her beloved daughter back to full health. She was truly dogged in her plea to Jesus to heal her daughter. Her willingness to face rejection, scorn and humiliation combined with her immense love, conviction and persistence give us the beginning of an understanding of what Jesus is talking about when he is talking about faith. She didn't hold back and Jesus was so impressed with her that he said to her, “O Woman, great is your faith!” Even though so much of Jesus’ teaching focused on the theme of faith this is the only time in the Gospel of St. Matthew that Jesus commends anyone for their great faith.
This story is about the powerful transformative nature of the virtue of faith. Think about it…this rather common Canaanite woman was transformed into a shining example of the power of faith; Jesus’ attitude about this woman is shifted from disdain to admiration and her daughter was healed. Her example of faith echoes down through the ages and still gives us strength in our own spiritual journeys. In this story we can see that true faith is grounded in love and is completely unselfish. Faith transforms us; it gives us a great inner strength and insight. Faith lifts us beyond our perceived limitations to accomplish things that we might never imagine that we could ever do. And, perhaps most amazingly, faith transforms the lives of those around us.
The Patterson Joint Unified School District is initiating a “No Excuses University” approach to animating and encouraging our young people to dream big dreams for themselves and keeping them focused on and helping them to realize those dreams. It’s an effort that really needs the effort and support of all the community. The example of the Canaanite woman encourages us all to NEVER give up on our young people and to use our creativity, our persistence, and our patience… our faith to help all of the young people of our community to realize their full potential.
The Rev. Rex Hays is pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Sermon notes is a column by local religious leaders.