When Jesus encountered the Canaanite Woman who had been asking for the healing of her daughter, His initial response was to ignore her. In fact, He tried twice to put her off, and not response even saying, "It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the little dogs." (Matthew 15.26) but she was relentless in her call, “Lord have mercy on me!” Eventually her daughter was healed, as Christ honored her deep faith, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire." (Matthew 15.28) We hear this Gospel every time we celebrate Holy Unction, and it always make me ponder the truth of being healed by God.
Some people say that Christ was belittling the woman by referring to little dogs, but is that what really is taking place? Could God ever belittle a woman asking for her daughter to be healed, especially when the healing is from demon possession? Certainly not! God is merciful and loving, so there must be something else taking place. The answer is in His ability to draw not on the woman, but the crowd into the dialogue. Even we are drawn in closer wondering what God will do in this case. We almost cheer for the woman when we hear that her daughter was healed at the very hour that Christ spoke to her.
Several years ago I was attending a workshop about hospital ministry when we were asked by a hospital chaplain, “Who would not pray for someone to be healed?” For me, the issue isn’t whether or not we pray for our family members and friends to be healed. We do, but WHY do we want them to be healed in the first place? In the dialogue with this woman, Christ was challenging her to consider what she really wanted from Him. Was her desire for her daughter to be healed pure enough to endure being put off by Christ not just once, but twice? Was her faith strong enough to hear that she was being compared to little puppy dogs? So deep was her faith, that she reminded Christ that she wasn’t asking for any special treatment, but a few “crumbs” of His attention.
When we approach Christ with our various litanies of requests, do we ever consider what we really desire from God? Are we patient enough for God to put us off after the first or second request? What if God says, “No?” Is our faith strong enough to be told that we aren’t special? Truth be told, we all eventually die and none of us is special. Nonetheless, Christ is willing to heal us from the demons that attack us. He is willing to sit with us, and comfort us when our family and friends are suffering. What He wants from us, is to know that we are willing to accept whatever He has to offer, even if just a few crumbs.