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Jesus points to pagan woman as example of faith

KUL Heschel Center / 20.08.2023
Photo credit_KUL Heschel Center
Photo credit_KUL Heschel Center

The Canaanite woman in the Gospels is an example of a mother’s love, extraordinary humility, and Jesus even gives her as an example of faith, writes Fr. dr. Paul Rytel-Andrianik, a biblical scholar, deputy director of Heschel Center KUL, editor-in-chief of the Polish Section of the Vatican Radio and Vatican News, in a commentary for Sunday, August 20 for the Heschel Center of the Catholic University of Lublin.

Full text

A Canaanite woman, and therefore a Gentile, asks Jesus to heal her daughter.

Jesus says that he was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. He adds, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.”

And she replied: “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then Jesus answered her: “O woman, great is your faith!

Let it be done for you as you wish.”

The Canaanite woman did not take offense. On the contrary, Jesus himself was astonished by her reaction.

It is important to know that in Middle Eastern tradition, someone compared to a dog could really take offense. A dog is a despised, unclean animal. If someone goes to Jerusalem, for example, he will see for himself that even nowadays it is very rare to see dogs on the street. This is very different than in Europe or other countries.

Not only did the Canaanite woman not offend, but she set an example of three values:

First: The love of a mother who will do anything for her child. That’s why, as a Gentile, she came to Jesus, because she heard that he heals.

Second, an example of extraordinary humility. She was not discouraged by the comparison to a dog.

And third, the Gentile woman is given by Jesus as an example of faith.

Faith – in Hebrew emunah – is both believing in God and believing God, trusting Him. From the same Hebrew root comes the word Amen, which we so often utter.

The Amen we utter is also an expression of trust in God, because we say in this way “I believe, let it be so,” that is, according to God’s will.


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