«Oh! woman! Great is your faith. And you comfort My spirit by it. Go, therefore, and it will be done to you as you wish. »
– With James of Zebedee and others becoming disheartened after being expelled, derided, and cursed, a Cananean mother shows faith beyond all expectations after being expelled, derided and cursed herself by the very same apostles.
330. They are taking their milk and everybody, with the exception of Jesus, dips large slices of bread into it, when Andrew and John arrive with Annas, the shepherd.
«Ah! You are here! We had come back to tell the rest that we had not found You…» exclaims Andrew.
Jesus wishes peace to the three and adds: «Quick. Take your share and let us leave because I want to be at least at the foot of the mountain of Achzib before evening. The Sabbath begins this evening.»
The meal is over and the apostles go upstairs to get their travelling bags and be ready to leave.
«Master… that woman in the next room… are You not listening to her?»
«I have no time, Jonah. I have a long way to go and in any case I have come for the sheep of Israel. Goodbye, Jonah. May God reward you for your charity. I bless you and all your relatives. Let us go…»
But the old man begins to shout at the top of his voice: «Children! Women! The Master is going away! Come, quick!»
As a brood of chicks scattered in a stack-yard rush towards the broody-hen calling them, so women and men – some already busy, some still half asleep – rush from every side, together with half-naked children who are smiling although they have just woken up… They all gather round Jesus, Who is in the middle of the threshing-floor, and the mothers envelop their children in their wide skirts to protect them from the cool air, or they hold them in their arms until a maid-servant brings their clothes and puts them on them.
Also a woman, who is not of the household, comes forth. A poor weeping shy woman… She stoops and comes forward almost creeping and when she reaches the group where Jesus is, she begins to shout: «Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented very badly by a demon who makes her do shameful things. Have mercy on me because I am suffering so much, as everybody sneers at me because of that, as if my child were guilty of what she does… Have mercy, O Lord, You can do everything. Raise Your voice and Your hand and order the unclean spirit to go out of Palma. She is my only daughter and I am a widow… Oh! don’t go away! Mercy!…»
Jesus, in fact, after blessing each member of the household and reproaching the elder ones for telling people of His arrival there – and they justify themselves saying: «We have not said anything, believe us, Lord!» – goes away; He is inexplicably hard towards the poor woman, who is dragging herself along on her knees with her arms stretched out in suppliant attitude, while she says panting: «I saw You yesterday while You were crossing the torrent and I heard them call You: “Master.” I followed You, among the bushes, and I heard what these people were saying. I understood who You are… And I came here this morning before daybreak and I remained here, on the threshold, like a little dog, until Sarah got up and made me go in. Have mercy, my Lord, on a mother and a little girl!»
But Jesus is walking fast and turns a deaf ear to her entreaties. The people of the household say to her: «Resign yourself! He will not listen to you. He said so Himself: He has come for the children of Israel…»
She is desperate but at the same time full of faith, and she stands up saying: «No. I will pray until He listens to me.» And she follows the Master shouting her entreaties, which draw to the doors of the houses in the village all those who are already awake and who, like the people of Jonah’s household, begin to follow her to see what happens.
In the meantime the apostles, seized with astonishment, look at one another and whisper: «Why is He doing that? He has never done it before!…»
And John says: «He cured also those two people at Alexandroscene.»
«But they were proselytes» replies Thaddeus.
«And what about the woman He is going to cure now?»
«She is a proselyte as well» says the shepherd Annas.
«Oh! but how many times has He cured Gentiles or heathens! And what about the Roman girl?…» says Andrew desolately, as he cannot set his mind at rest seeing Jesus’ harsh behaviour towards the Cananean woman.
«I will tell you what it is» exclaims James of Zebedee. «The Master is angry. His patience has come to an end before so many attacks of human wickedness. Can’t you see how changed He is? He is quite right! From now on He will devote Himself only to those with whom He is familiar. And He is doing the right thing!»
«Good. But in the meantime this woman is following us howling and a train of people are coming behind her. Although He does not want to be noticed, He has found the way to draw even the attention of trees…» grumbles Matthew.
«Let us go and tell Him to send her away… Look at the lovely procession there is behind us! If we arrive at the consular road like this, we will be in trouble! And she will not leave us unless He drives her away…» says Thaddeus who is very annoyed. He even turns round and says to the woman in a commanding voice: «Be quiet and go away!». And James of Alphaeus is solid for his brother.
But she is not impressed by threats or orders and continues to implore.
«Let us go and tell the Master to send her away, since He does not want to hear her. This cannot go on!» says Matthew, while Andrew whispers: «Poor woman!», and John repeats continuously: «I do not understand… I do not understand…» John is dumbfounded at Jesus’ behaviour.
They quicken their pace and reach the Master Who is walking as fast as if He were chased. «Master, please dismiss that woman! It’s a scandal! She is shouting after us! She is pointing us out to everybody! The road is getting more and more crowded with people… and many are following her. Tell her to go away.»
«You can tell her yourselves. I have already replied to her.»
«She will not listen to us. Please! You must tell her. And very severely.»
Jesus stops and turns round. The woman takes it as a sign of grace, she quickens her step, she raises the already shrill tone of her voice while her face becomes pale with her increased hope.
«Be quiet, woman. And go home. I have already told you. I have come for the sheep of Israel. To cure the ones that are ill and find the ones that are lost. You are not from Israel.»
But the woman is already at His feet and she kisses them, worshipping Him, holding His ankles tight, as if she were a ship-wrecked person who had found a rock of salvation, and she moans: «Lord, help me! You can help me, Lord. Give the order to the demon, since You are holy… Lord, You are the master of everything, of graces and of the world. Everything is subject to You, my Lord. I know. I believe it. Take therefore Your power and use it for my daughter.»
«It is not right to take the bread of the children of the house and throw it to the dogs in the street.»
«I believe in You. And through my faith, from a dog of the street I have become a dog of the house. I told You: I came before daybreak to lie down on the threshold of the house in which You were, and if You had come out there, You would have trampled on me. But You went out from the other side and did not see me. You did not see this poor distressed dog, starving for Your grace, waiting to go in, creeping, where You were, to kiss Your feet, imploring You not to drive it away…»
«It is not right to throw the bread of the children to dogs» repeats Jesus.
«But dogs go into the room where the landlord is eating with his children, and they eat what falls from the table, or the remnants of food, which the family gives them, as they are of no further use. I am not asking You to treat me as a daughter and let me sit at Your table. But give me at least the crumbs…»
Jesus smiles. Oh! What a transfiguration that joyful smile works on His face!…
The people, the apostles, the woman look at Him with admiration… they realize that something is about to happen.
And Jesus says: «Oh! woman! Great is your faith. And you comfort My spirit by it. Go, therefore, and it will be done to you as you wish. As from this moment, the demon has gone out of your daughter. Go in peace. And as from a stray dog you wanted to be a dog of the house, endeavour in the future to be a daughter sitting at the table of the Father. Goodbye.»
«Oh! Lord! My Lord!… I would like to run away and see my beloved Palma…
And I would like to stay with You, and follow You! Blessed! Holy!»
«Go, woman. Go in peace.»
And Jesus resumes His way while the Cananean woman, more agile than a young girl, runs away along the road she came, followed by the crowd anxious to see the miracle…
«But, Master, why did You make her implore You so much, before listening to her?» asks James of Zebedee.
«Through your fault and the fault of all of you. That is not a defeat, James. I was not expelled, derided or cursed here… Let that be a relief to your disheartened spirits. I have already had today My most delicious food. And I bless God for it.
And now let us go and see this other woman who believes and can wait with firm faith.»