The Woman Who Jesus Called a Dog

Remember when Jesus called that woman a dog? When I heard it, I was horrified!

Here’s the passage from Matthew 15:21-28:

Then Jesus went from that place and 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 he did not say a word in answer to her. His 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 him 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 her daughter was healed from that hour.

I always felt bad for this woman. Jesus called her a dog, and yet she continued to beg him for help. Shouldn’t she have told him where to go and then huffed off? Isn’t that what we are supposed to do? I mean, he blew her off three times! I think I would have left after saying a few choice words. My pride would have been too great and too injured. I would have wanted to leave with at least a shred of dignity, especially since it seemed he wasn’t going to help me anyway.

But not this woman. She cared more for her daughter than for her own pride, her own “dignity.” That is just not how we do things here in the world. We are supposed to rant, get righteous, demand to speak to Jesus’ manager. We don’t want to look like fools when we tell this story to our family and friends, do we? “So then after this man and his friends had ignored me and told me to go away and called me a dog, I begged him some more.” That just doesn’t sound good in the retelling. Makes me look bad.

The Canaanite woman didn’t care about all that. She didn’t care how it looked. She continued to subject herself to Jesus, even after apparent rejection – three times over.

Do you ever feel rejected by God? I do. I remember after my father died. I was so miserable. The misery went on and on and on. For months, then years. I felt rejected and like I was being punished. God must not like me, I thought. Or else he is just too mad to deal with me. I mean, I haven’t led a spotless life. I’ve done things that were so wrong that I’m too ashamed to even mention them here. This crushing pain must be my punishment, I reasoned.

I’m reading the Diary of St. Faustina. She went through crushing mental and spiritual pain – nothing eased it. You know what she said? She said to Jesus, “Even if you kill me, still I will trust in You!” (See Job 13:15.) She continued to be faithful to her vows and the Sacraments. She writes, “…this blind obedience was for me the only path I could follow and my very last hope of survival.”

That’s what the Canaanite woman was like! She continued to be blindly obedient even when ignored, even when she felt rejected. She persisted in her pleas. And she was rewarded for her faithfulness. “O woman great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed that very hour.

God, please help me to be patient, persistent, and obedient. Help me even when I feel rejected to do you homage and say, “Lord, help me.” I want you to be able to say to me, “O woman, great is your faith!”