Lin Weeks Wilder

Lin Weeks Wilder

Christianity, faith, thanksgiving

Even The Dogs: The Canaanite Woman and Us

Even The Dogs: The Canaanite Woman and Us

Initially, perhaps for some, each time we read this Gospel passage, we think that Jesus is being crass, even cruel. But that’s because all too readily, we impose our own motives on Christ.

And yet, it is a curious interaction. So odd that it begs for a third or tenth reflection.

If you’ve not read the passage or have forgotten much of it, here it is again:

At that time, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 
And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out,
"Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! 
My daughter is tormented by a demon." 
But Jesus did not say a word in answer to her. 
Jesus' disciples came and asked him,
"Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us."
He said in reply,
"I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel."
But the woman came and did Jesus homage, saying, "Lord, help me." 
He said in reply,
"It is not right to take the food of the children
and throw it to the dogs." 
She said, "Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps
that fall from the table of their masters." 
Then Jesus said to her in reply,
"O woman, great is your faith! 
Let it be done for you as you wish." 
And the woman's daughter was healed from that hour.

She is only one of two

non-Jews of Jesus’ time we are introduced to in the Gospels. The other is well known to us Catholics for we recite his words each time before receiving the Body and Blood of Christ: the unnamed Roman centurion. The man at whose words Jesus is amazed:

“I do not deserve to have you enter under my roof, but only say the words and my servant will be healed.

This Canaanite woman is desperate, some might say, obnoxious, like author Carl Olson writes:

“How did the Canaanite woman know about Jesus? We don’t know for certain, but it is apparent that word of Jesus and his deeds had spread beyond Israel. Whatever the case, the woman’s approach to Jesus and the disciples was both obnoxious and remarkable. She literally screamed at them, displaying her obvious desperation and suffering; she was, simply, in serious need of mercy and a miracle—and she knew it.”

  • Not only female,
  • She’s an outsider, not one of the Chosen People.
  • The disciples try to drive her away.
  • She begs Jesus for his help, not for herself but her child!
  • At first he doesn’t answer.
  • And then condemns her by calling her one of the dogs under the table where the food of God’s children is distributed.

But we’re compelled to ponder this woman: her audacity, persistence and grit.

But more remarkable than all of these traits is her humility. She chooses not to take offense, wallow in hurt feelings or give in to anger. So we know there’s got to be something else going on here, right? Perhaps a major lesson to our reactive, self-absorbed selves about faith and trust.

Israel’s “vocation to the world,”

is one of Bishop Barron’s wholly marvelous phrases. In his Sermon on the Canaanite woman, Bishop Barron speaks of the 100+ homilies he heard on this Gospel passage, all of them wrong. And proceeds to unpack Even The Dogs: The Canaanite Woman and Us.

Using the title of a John Lennon seventies era album called “Walls and Bridges,” a phrase he loves because it’s such a fitting metaphor for reading this Gospel passage.

Is there a great wall around Israel?


Walls define, they cement identity. “I’ve come for the lost sheep of Israel.”

But is that wall meant to exclude the non-Israelites?


The Canaanite woman symbolizes those of us who finally understand that our only proper position is on our knees. Even The Dogs: The Canaanite Woman and Us

“Lord, help me.”

Post Tags :
biblical quotes, bishop barron, gospel

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Lin Wilder

Lin Wilder has a doctorate in Public Health from the UT Houston with a background in cardiopulmonary physiology, medical ethics, and hospital administration. 

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