The story of the healing of the daughter of the Canaanite woman is our text for today. This story is found also in Mark 7,24-30, but Mark identifies the woman as a Syrophoenician. Matthew’s mention of “Tyre and Sidon” (Mark has only Tyre) and identifying the woman as a Canaanite results in an emphasis that Jesus has entered Gentile territory. This is also emphasised by the fact that Matthew does not have Jesus enter a house (like Mark does). In Matthew, Jesus does not enter the houses of Gentiles. The woman still addresses him with the title that only believers use in Matthew namely “Lord”. Despite an initial rejection, the woman perseveres in her request and continues to address Jesus as Lord. Jesus’ direct response to the woman is harsh and must be interpreted as a rejection. The analogy is indeed strong. However, the woman seems undeterred, and for the third time addresses Jesus as Lord, and continues to plead her cause. Jesus interprets such perseverance as “great faith”, and immediately heals the woman’s daughter even from a distance.
The woman shows not only perseverance and faith but also the ability not to let words get her down. The harsh words of Jesus spoken not in jest or with a twinkle in his eye (because nothing in the text warrants such an explanation) would have resulted in a lesser person treating it as an affront. The woman does not such thing. She knows what she wants and is determined to get it. She knows that while sticks and stones may break her bones, words can never hurt her.