The 17th Sunday after 


The Canaanite Woman


Matthew 15:21-28

Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.
{22} And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and
cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my
daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. {23} But he answered her not
a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away;
for she crieth after us. {24} But he answered and said, I am not sent
but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel. {25} Then came she and
worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me. {26} But he answered and said, It
is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to dogs. {27} And
she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from
their masters' table. {28} Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O
woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her
daughter was made whole from that very hour.


In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Today is the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost and also the Sunday
after the Exaltation of the Precious and life-giving cross.  Therefore,
we have as one of the gospel readings the passage about taking up the
cross and denying oneself, which is always read on the Sunday after the
Exaltation of the Cross.  We also have before us the spectacle of the
Canaanite woman.  Indeed at that time, when she begged for and received
the healing of her daughter, she was surely quite a spectacle.  She was
crying after our Lord, crying after his disciples, and trying to get his
attention, because of her extreme need.  We can learn many things from
this woman.  Of course, we can learn about humility, but there is
something even more profound about this woman.  Our Lord names it
himself -- her faith.  Out of her faith came her humility.  

Our Lord is going along the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  This was the land
of the Gentiles.  He was actually escaping from the Jews, who could not
His testimony concerning Himself, recorded only in the Gospel of St.
John.  He called Himself the bread of life, and told that we must eat
this bread in order to have salvation.  The Jews (those who did not
believe of course) could not stand that.  They could not understand it,
because they were carnal and temporal people.  After His discourse, many
that had been following Him left.  There was a tumult concerning him,
and much anger.  At this time, and even before then, there was a
conspiracy among some that wanted to kill our Lord.  He died at the time
he wanted to die, and escaped from the conspirators many times.  He
would go into hiding for periods of time, in order and teach his
disciples privately, and also to make available to us important
incidents for our benefit, such as when he met the woman at the well,
St. Photini, or when this woman of Canaan shows such great faith.  

Our Lord is in the land of the Gentiles, and he is just passing through.
 He is not on a mission of ministry there at all, since he said he was
sent to the lost sheep of Israel.  The vast majority of what He said and
did was to the Jews.  Later, the floodgates were opened, when it was the
right time, and all men were made aware of the salvation of God.  This
would be a task for the Apostles, and indeed, the whole church, to do.  

This woman comes and begs Him to heal her daughter, many many times.  I
think also of the blind men, who also entreated Him, saying, ?Have mercy
on us, O Lord, thou son of David.  And the multitude rebuked them,
because they should hold their peace: but they cried the more, saying,
Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou son of David.¦.  So also did blind
Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus entreat our Lord with great persistence:
?Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.  And many charged him that
he should hold his peace: but he cried the more a great deal, Thou son
of David, have mercy on me.¦ Jesus rewarded this man with object of his
desire, and also commended him about his great faith.  These few also
were very persistent, as this Canaanite woman was.  In this society, it
would have been a spectacle for a woman to do this, and even a Gentile
woman at that.  

She says ?Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David; my daughter is
grievously vexed with a devil.¦.  Notice that she says ?Have mercy on
me." Our Lord does not rebuke her for this.  The desires of our heart
God will give, if we ask with a pure heart, and with a persistence that
shows we believe.  If we ask for mercy upon ourselves, aren-t we also
asking for mercy for those we love and care about?  When we pray for
mercy, we certainly will be thinking of our family, our brothers and
sisters, and those we love, because their well being is certainly the
desire of our heart.  God will grant our desires, and we do not have to
be so precise - ?Lord have mercy on George because of this problem, or
John because of that problem¦-- all we need do is ask God for mercy, and
in a simple way make our need known, to the One who already knows.  

When the blessed woman finally got his attention, she said what her
problem was: ?my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.¦  And he did
not say anything.  He ignored her, and the indication from the text is
that this went on for quite some time.  She was imprecating him over and
over as he walked on the road, ignoring her.  Even the Apostles were
asking Him to send her away.  The Fathers think that the Apostles had
tried to be her advocate, but at length they had tired of her.  This
woman has no friends in the world.  She is completely alone, and she is
crying out to the only one she thinks can help her, and He is not
listening.  But she keeps trying.  She comes and worships Him: ¦Lord
help me." 

He answers her in a way that seems to our pampered egos to be very
harsh.  ?It is not meet to take the children's bread, and cast it to
dogs.¦ The children are the Jews, the bread is Him, and the dog --- is
her.  He called her a dog!  In that time, to be called a dog was
considered one of the greatest insults.  This woman does not recoil from
this insult.  And our Lord knew this, and that her reaction would show
her great faith and humility, born of faith.  Or shall I say, the
application of her faith.  If you believe something and do not act upon
it, it is completely useless to you.  This woman answers wondrously:
?Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their
masters' table." 

What a spectacle we have here, of incredible humility!  However, take
note, brothers and sisters, this humility is founded on knowledge, and
he acting upon this knowledge.  She was bold.  She went to our Lord, and
thrust herself in front of him, and she begged mercy of him, because She
knew WHO HE WAS.  She also knew who she was.  When He said she was a
dog, she accepted that, because she knew it was true.  But she also knew
that He was the Lord, and that he could heal her daughter, and indeed
would heal her daughter.  That is why she spent so much time pursuing
Him, and surmounted so many obstacles that would stop those of less

The Lord said to her: ?Woman, great is thy faith¦, and then he healed
her daughter.  How can there be such a miracle?  The key is to know
Christ.  If we know Christ, then He will teach us all things.  How in
the world can we do this? 

The Epistle from the Sunday after the Exaltation gives us a clue.  The
Apostle says, ?I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not
I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I
live by the faith of the Son of God.¦ The sentence has seeming
contradictions -- ?I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me."  To know
Christ, and to have Him live within you, that is the source of all of
our knowledge, and our humility.  A man who begins to know Christ will
also begin to know himself, and he will know that he is a dog, or a
worm, or any of the other epithets by which the fathers refer to
themselves in their prayers.  If you look at the way the Fathers view
themselves in all of their holy prayers -- it is amazing -- they were
saints, and yet they thought of themselves as the lowest of humanity,
and yet, in the midst of their low opinion of themselves, they had
boldness before Christ.  How can this be? 

It can only be -- when Christ lives within you.  It is the only way that
a man can have boldness before God -- to have God living in him.  As God
lives within you, you change in your life, because our life is full of
change.  We either change by going away from God, or going towards Him. 
The Christian life is the amendment of ourselves.  It is the gradual
acquisition of the Holy Spirit.  It is becoming holy.  As we become more
holy, we acquire more knowledge, and the application of that knowledge
will truly be pleasing to God..  

A key to obtaining Christ, and having this knowledge of God, and
therefore the boldness and humility, which are side by side with one
another is to deny ourselves.  Our society is full of self-indulgence. 
It is never really been significantly different, but nowadays, we have
the technology to indulge ourselves almost any time we want and in any
way we want.  Before, it was a little harder, because if you did not
scratch a living out of the earth, you would not eat.  So you had to do
some work, and work very diligently just to take care of the necessities
of life.  Now, in our industrial society, we have more free time, but so
many of us are not free, because we are captive to our passions, and do
not deny ourselves.  

The church, in her wisdom, knows that she must teach us this important
truth -- built into our character -- that if we do not deny ourselves in
a pursuit, we will not be successful in it.  If you do not deny yourself
when you wish to learn something that is difficult by studying it when
you would rather be playing basketball or watching television, or some
other indulgence, then you will not learn that which you say you want to
know.  If you do not deny yourself by fasting, and by attending the
services even when they are difficult, and by praying even when you are
tired, and by forgiving when you do not want to forgive, and by
swallowing your anger when you are angry, and by looking away when you
have trouble with a lustful thought -- if you do not deny yourself in
these ways, and the myriad other things that your conscience convicts
you of, and you know God wants you to do, then you will not grow.  If
you do not grow, then you will shrivel, and you will die.  

The Christian life is growing towards God, it is becoming more like Him.
 We either become more like Him, or we lose the likeness of Him in
ourselves.  If this happens, when we are judged, God will say: 'I don-t
know who you are.  I don-t know you because you are not like me.  You
had the opportunity to be like Me.  I gave you every bit of knowledge
that was necessary, but you squandered it.  You wanted to do things your
own way.'

This woman of Canaan, a pagan woman, a gentile, and outcast, she shows
us the real truth of the matter.  She, who not had Christ revealed to
her in writing, or speech, knew Him.  She was humble and bold in her
humility.  Again, I say, in the Christian life, the two are the same. 
In secular life, they are not at all the same, but in the Christian
life, some one who is humble is bold before God, because he knows Who
God IS, and he knows who he is, and he lives in a constant effort to be
more like God in holiness and knowledge.  That-s what we should try to
obtain -- this knowledge, and then we will obtain the things we wish
from God.  God help us to be humble and to be bold before Christ.  Amen.


This and other Orthodox materials are available in booklet and
electronic form from: 

St. Nicholas Orthodox Church, Dallas, Texas

Mailing Address	2102 Summit, McKinney TX 75070

Rectory Phone	972/529-2754


Web Page	  HYPERLINK  Http:// 

This particular text may be found at:

All rights reserved. Please use this material in any way that is
edifying to your soul, and copy it for personal use if you so desire. We
ask that you contact St. Nicholas if you wish to distribute it in any
way. We grant permission to post this text, if completely intact only,
including this paragraph and the contact information above, to any
electronic mailing list.

Page   PAGE  9  of   NUMPAGES  \* MERGEFORMAT  9 

The Canaanite Woman

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

 This homily was transcribed from one given On August 29, 1996 according
to the church calendar, being the Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost.
The Gospel appointed for this day is Matthew 15:21-28. There are some
stylistic changes and minor corrections made and several footnotes have
been added, but otherwise, it is essentially in a colloquial, ?spoken¦
style. It is hoped that something in these words will help and edify the
reader, but a sermon read from a page cannot enlighten a soul as much as
attendance and reverent worship at the Vigil service, which prepares the
soul for the Holy Liturgy, and the hearing of the scriptures and the
preaching of them in the context of the Holy Divine Liturgy. In such
circumstances the soul is enlightened much more than when words are read
on a page.

 Matt 20:31

 Mark 10:47-48

 Matt 15:22

 Matt 15:26

 Matt 15:27

 Galatians 16:20