Among the seven Gospel readings of the Holy Unction service, which is celebrated here at St Nicholas on the first day of Great Lent (March 15 this year) and on Holy Wednesday each year as well as other days, we hear about the Canaanite Woman who begged for help from Christ. At first Christ ignored her, then His Disciples tried to get her to be sent away, and finally Christ Himself rebuffed her by saying, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” (Matthew 15.26) Still not giving up, the woman said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat crumbs which fall from their master’s table.” (Matthew 15.27) As we know, the woman’s daughter was healed by Christ as He said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” (Matthew 15.28)
There are two important lessons we can learn from this story. First we should hear this story for our healing, since it has been included in the Mystery (Sacrament) of Holy Unction. When Christ kept putting off the woman, He knew her faith. He knew He was going to heal her daughter, and He knew His followers around Him needed to be healed as well. Yes, the story is about Christ healing the demon possessed daughter, but the crowd was healed that day from their arrogance. Imagine anyone trying to keep someone from asking God for help! If we are willing to open our hearts to this story, we can be healed too from the coldness that is in our hearts toward others in our society and even sometimes in our Church family.
The second lesson for us is about what I call pure humility. Christ used this woman’s faith to heal the crowd, as they witnessed her total humility in the face of God. Being compared to a little puppy dog was an insult to her. She knew in her heart, as we all are invited to embrace in our heart, that she was not worthy of anything special from God. In fact she wasn’t asking anything for herself at all. It was her daughter that needed God, and she knew God was able and willing to heal her. Her humility wasn’t that she “swallowed her pride” but that she genuinely understood that she didn’t didn’t deserve God’s special treatment, and if God wanted to use her humility to heal the crowd, then that was ok with her.
I wonder sometimes if we hear this story to be about our healing like the crowd. Do we simply see a woman humiliated by God before He “finally agreed” to give her what she demanded, or do we see a woman filled with deep love and devotion to God as a humble servant? It was the crowd that was humbled that day, and while the Gospel doesn’t outwardly state it, I suspect many in the crowd were healed of their cold hearts. If we have ears to hear and eyes to see, we can be the ones healed today when we open our hearts to the pure humility of the Canaanite Woman.