Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Our text for today is very appropriate for International Women's Day, because it is the story of a woman's faith. The theme is the relationship between faith and prayer.
There are some similarities between this story and the story of the blind man on the road to Jericho in the gospel for Quinquagesima. Marginalized people are found in both stories. One was blind, another a foreigner. They both cried out incessantly to the "Son of David," which is a title of the Messiah, the Savior promised in the Old Testament. In both cases, the disciples rebuked them.
The Lord answered the blind man quickly, but in this case, He did not answer the lady at first. She was a Canaanite woman, according to Saint Matthew. In chapter seven of his gospel, St. Mark calls her a Syrophoenician woman.
“And behold, a Canaanite woman who had come out of that region was crying out, saying: Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me, my daughter is seriously tormented by a demon. But He did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying: Dismiss her, for she cries after us. ”
She was not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Then finally Jesus said this: "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." We read in our Old Testament lesson (Genesis 32: 22-32) how Jacob fought against God in the night, because the will of God to reconcile with his brother, Esau, scared him. Esau had sworn to kill Jacob. But, after the fight, Jacob received God's blessing and the Lord changed his name to Israel, which means he who fights with God.
The Canaanite woman also did not give up. “Then she came and worshiped him, saying: Lord, help me! But He answered and said, It is not good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs. And she said: Yes, Lord, but the dogs eat from the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters. ”
Jesus' second answer was a test for the woman, also for the disciples. Many of the Jews only believed in the Messiah as the Savior of their people. But, in the beginning, God's promise to Abraham was that from his seed all nations would be blessed. Jesus was born among the Jews to fulfill the first part of the promise and fulfilled the other part on the cross.
Let's talk for a while about what was the Canaanite woman's problem. Her daughter was tormented by a demon. In our text for last Sunday, Jesus was tempted by Satan, prince of the rebel angels. We confess in the Nicene Creed that God created all things visible and invisible. The visible things are the human race and the rest of the material creation. The invisible ones are the angels, created by God as His servants, but now some of the angels are evil and accursed spirits.
Apart from Christ, we are slaves to sin and therefore under the dominion of Satan and his angels. In holy baptism, we are free from the power of the devil now and forever. But we have to remain under the protection of our baptism and walk in the faith, because the demons have their influence in this world. All physical illnesses are the consequence of the sin of Adam and Eve, and physical illnesses affect us whether we have faith or not. We must avoid the spiritual influence of the devil and we do not open the door with involvement in witchcraft or spiritism.
In the New Testament you will find instances of a demon having complete control of a person spiritually and physically. Only Jesus had all power over demons.
The Canaanite woman recognized Jesus as her only hope, then. And finally, Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Be done with you as you want. And her daughter was healed from that hour."
We must pray without ceasing. God has promised us to listen to all our prayers. However, the answer does not depend on the strength of our faith. God has all the power and also knows that we need more than we can know. God is going to answer our prayers in his time according to his will. The purpose of prayer is to teach us to trust God more and more.
The devil's temptations are to deceive us and turn us away from God. God's tests are to increase our faith and trust in God. This Canaanite woman should be our example, because she recognized that she did not deserve anything from God, but Jesus was her only hope. No other name has been given to men.
As Saint Paul says in our epistle (Romans 5: 1-5), “tribulation produces patience; and patience, test; and the test, hope ”.
In this hope we have the peace that passes all understanding. Amen.
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