I am troubled by today's reading


Matthew 15:21-28

"Jesus left that place and withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon.

And suddenly out came a Canaanite woman from that district and started shouting, ‘Lord, Son of David, take pity on me. My daughter is tormented by a devil.’

But he said not a word in answer to her. And his disciples went and pleaded with him, saying, ‘Give her what she wants, because she keeps shouting after us.’

He said in reply, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel.’

But the woman had come up and was bowing low before him. ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘help me.’

He replied, 'It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to little dogs."

This bothers me in that it portrays a side of Christ that seems out of step with all other descriptions of his ministry . It seems so exclusionary, Jews over mankind.
What am I missing?


Jesus is pushing her to see how far her faith and persistence will go and he is thrilled by her response. I have noticed that He was always more pleased with the faith of the Gentiles than with the Jews.


The priest at our parish actually discussed this in Mass today. Jesus is testing her faith because he knows she needs it.


Jesus was testing her faith as others have shown. My priest, Fr. Ray said in the homily today that this reading demonstrates our need for perseverance in prayer.


Holly I think you and I were sitting in the same room. :slight_smile:


Mother Angelica sees this woman as being “called by God to give an example of perseverance in time of trial, of deep faith when faith can be shaken” (Mother Angelica’s Private and Pithy Lessons from the Scriptures).

Another interpretation given by my priest and also by the woman who writes the insert in our bulletin was the Jesus wanted to show His Apostles that it is wrong to discriminate against others based on their race, color, etc. That is the only reason why He said what He said to the Canaanite woman at first: to show how mean people can sound when they discriminate against minorities and that this is wrong.

I hope this helps! May God bless you all abundantly! :slight_smile:


Richard, it does help some.
When looking at Peter later on it would have been a lesson he seems to have learned well when the discussion of ministering to the Gentiles came up.


Today we take as a right, the fact of human equality. All of us equal in the eyes of God and the State. At the time of Jesus, it was very much accepted that peoples rights were determined by bloodlines. Any concessions that the poor or lesser class were given was as a result of kindness and mercy shown to them by the chosen people or superior classes.

This woman would have known that Jesus was a special person or prophet of the Jewish people but she didn’t care that she didn’t actually qualify or deserve His help because of her class status. She had a kind of faith based solely on her great love and desire for her afflicted daughter.

In a way, it was people like her that paved the way for Jesus ministry. He could have gone around laying His love on everybody indiscriminately, but it was the true believers who invited Him into the family of man (as we know it today) through sheer force of faith. True faith never gives up.


On a side note, how wonderful that all of us in every corner of the globe, hear the same Gospel and homily every Sunday!


Yes Longingsoul it is one of the things that helped bring me to the Catholic Church along with the Church’s seemingly effortless ability to absorb various cultures and yet produce the same Liturgy.


I’ve also read that Jesus was teaching us about humility. The woman showed great humility as well as perseverance. She acknowledged that all good comes from God.


This passage reveals some very important things. One is that God was working in this pagan woman, much the same way as He did Peter when he accurately identified Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Mt 16). How on earth would this pagan woman know to call Jesus the Son of David and turn to Him for help? It was God who moved her. Why? He wanted to reveal to everyone, most especially the Disciples, that the Gentiles were going to be brought under the covering of the New Covenant. Remember, the Disciples just wanted to send her away, but Jesus does not send anyone away who truly seeks Him. When Jesus says “I was sent to bring back the lost sheep of Israel” there are two things happening. One is that He is saying He is the One, the expected Messiah, Who would bring back the lost sheep of Israel (Ez 34:23-24). He’s actually saying that He is going to fulfill a messianic prophecy. The second important thing is that the woman can be seen as representative of those lost sheep. To understand this, we must remember our biblical history. What happened to those northern tribes of Israel? Where did those lost sheep go? Centuries before they had conquered by pagan armies and the ones who survived were absorbed into pagan culture. The “lost tribes” became part of the “nations”, their descendants were of Israelite heritage but they were now Gentiles. The Messiah has to come for the lost sheep of Israel precisely by reaching out into the nations. What we see in this extraordinary passage is the beginning of the work of bringing the lost tribes back to God as well as those Gentiles who were never even under the Old Covenant. However, they are coming back to God under the New Covenant, not the Old Covenant. So the Apostles (who are the first leaders of our Church) were later commanded to go out into* the nations* to baptize and bring the nations into the Church. By doing so, Jesus, the Messiah, is bringing the lost sheep back into their fold (as well as all of humanity who would believe in Him).

I agree with others that Jesus is really putting the woman to the test. She is undeterred. This is another great example for us. When we seek Jesus, there are often trials and obstacles. Are we just going to give up? No way! Jesus is likely putting her to the test precisely so we can see and the Disciples could see her unshakeable faith. He wasn’t being mean or ornery, He was teaching.

This passage is way deeper than it would appear on the surface. Really good stuff! :slight_smile:

PS. Our priest said today that lots of commentators try to sugarcoat the part about the dogs. Don’t fall for that, he said, that** is** how Jews thought of Gentiles. Jesus is putting it out there for us to see. When the Disciples heard this they were probably thinking “Yeah, go home dog!” But then Jesus healed her daughter! He recognized her faith-- as He does in other Gospel passages with other Gentiles. I can only imagine how this confused the Disciples but it was just another seed Jesus was planting for later on. Another thing that our priest said is that it should make you pause and think of how you think of people of other religions or non-believers.


Father described it as “expressing openly” what the disciples were thinking. Remember the disciples were trying to silence her and send her away.

Father tied it to the 1st reading from Isaiah about God’s house being a house of prayer for all peoples.
But - the Jews had gradually lost this idea and became more and more exclusionary. So Jesus was actually expressing openly what the apostles were thinking. Then he went on to grant her petition - thus showing the truth of the passage in Isaiah.

Of course I think it is also true that he was testing her faith…He did that with many - and still does.





my priest discussed this today as well

I believe he is able to read the new testament in its original language, he said that the word used for dog is actually more like an affectionate pet dog, not the same word as a mangy scoundrel type of dog. shines a bit of a different light on it if you look at it that way.

and yes, the others are right, testing her faith, or shoing to the apostles that she had great faith since they were the ones who often doubted him


Also, in her greeting to Jesus (even though she was a Caananite sp?) she initially used language that would only have been used by Jewish people. “Lord, Son of David”. Since Jesus knew she wasn’t Jewish, he gave her an opportunity to be authentic and real before Him. Which we all must do.



The woman of Canaan is presented as a model of prayer. In particular, we see in her an example for parents who pray for their children. We turn to the great scholar, Fr. Cornelius a Lapide.

"Contemplate the ideal of perfect prayer, and imitate it. This woman of Canaan teaches us to pray.

"1. With great humility, in that she acknowledges herself to be a dog.

  1. With faith, because she calls Christ the son of David, i.e., the Messiah, the God and Saviour promised to the Jews.

  2. With modesty because she sets before Christ the right of dogs and her own misery; yet does she not draw from thence the conclusion that Christ should heal her daughter, but leaves that to Him.

  3. With prudence, in that she takes hold of Christ by His own words, and gently turns His reasoning against Himself, into an argument for obtaining her desire.

  4. With reverence, with religion and devotion, because she made her supplication on her knees.

  5. With resignation in that she did not say, “Heal my daughter,” but “help me,” in the manner which shall seem to Thee best.

  6. With confidence, because although a Gentile, she had a firm hope that she would be heard by Christ.

  7. With ardour.

  8. With charity, in that she made intercession for her daughter, as if she were anxious for herself, saying, help me.

  9. With constance and perseverance, in that she persisted when she was twice repulsed and became yet more earnest in prayer."



Not trying to be argumentative, but my priest said precisely the opposite. He said Jews thought of pagans and enemies of God as dogs (not cute little puppies) and that they were unclean, even viscous-- and they did their utmost to stay away from pagans. Respectfully, I just can’t agree with your priest’s interpretation about the dogs. I think the Scriptures show that the Jews did not of Gentiles or dogs with affection. That they thought dogs were unclean makes the passage from today’s reading all the more profound, IMHO.

Some other passages that would support this understanding of how Jews saw “dogs”:

Ps 22:17
Dogs surround me;
a pack of evildoers closes in on me.
They have pierced my hands and my feet

Ps 59:6-8
6You, LORD God of hosts, are the God of Israel!
Awake! Punish all the nations.
Have no mercy on these worthless traitors.
7Each evening they return,
growling like dogs, prowling the city.
8Their mouths pour out insult;
sharp words are on their lips.
They say: “Who is there to hear?”

Ph 3:2
Watch out for those dogs, those evildoers, those mutilators of the flesh.

Revelation 22:15
Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.


My priest today also mentioned this. He said that the word Jesus used was closer to “doggies”, as in small or pet dogs.
It may be true that Jews thought of Gentiles as dogs, but it appears that Jesus used a less pejorative word on this occasion.


If you read the passages befoe todays reading and look at a map you will can see the walked 100 miles to Tyre. Think about walking that journey yourself. Certainly noy to chastise, but to convert.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.