The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 15:21-28

Posted by Dim Bulb on July 23, 2016

Mat 15:21 And Jesus went from thence, and retired into the coast of Tyre and Sidon.
Mat 15:22 And behold a woman of Canaan who came out of those coasts, crying out, said to him: Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou son of David: my daughter is grievously troubled by a devil.

And Jesus went from thence.] 2. Men of good will not rejected. The ruin of the blind leaders and of those led by them has been announced, so that the evangelist considers it incumbent on him to show the affection of our Lord for the chosen people [cf. Euthymius Paschasius], first by his reluctance to aid the Gentiles [vv. 21–28], secondly by his feeding the multitude even without their asking him [vv. 29–39]. a. The Syrophenician woman. We notice first the petitioner and the petition; then, the Lord and his disciples; thirdly, the Lord and the Gentile, α. The petitioner and the petition. “Jesus went from thence,” i. e. from the land of Genesar [Mt. 14:34], “and retired,” partly to seek solitude [Euthymius Schegg, Keil] and partly to avoid the persecutions of the Pharisees [cf. Origin, Arnoldi Meyer, Weiss, Alb. Lap.ide, Lam.] and of Herod [Mt. 14:13; 4:12], “into [not merely “towards”; cf. Mk. 7:24, 31] the coasts of Tyre and Sidon”; these names denote the land of Phenicia, being its two most celebrated cities [cf. 27:3; 47:4; Ez. 27:8; Joel 3:4; Zach. 9:2; 1 Mach. 5:15; Mt. 11:21; Mk. 3:8; Lk. 6:17; etc.]. This visit of a Gentile country does not conflict with our Lord’s order that his apostles on their first missionary excursion should not go “into the way of the Gentiles” [cf. Mt. 10:5], since he himself was not bound by this order [Chrysostom] and since he did not enter Phenicia to preach there [Chrysostom, Theophylact]; on the other hand, Christ’s hardness towards the Gentile woman does not conflict with the history of the centurion [Mt. 8:5, 11, 12], because the latter lived among Jews and was their benefactor. The event foreshows the future call of the Gentiles [cf. Orig. Hil. Theophylact, Euthymius, Jerome, Bede, Paschasius, Salmeron, Jansenius, Lapide, Grimm, iv. p. 554]. Since the name of Jesus was well known in these parts [cf. Mt. 4:24; Lk. 6:17], he did not obtain the desired privacy [Mk. 7:24], but “a woman of Canaan,” whose name was Justa [Hom. Clem. ii. 19], “came out of those coasts” to meet him. The Chanaanites [cf. Gen. 10:15], driven by the Jews to the northern regions of Palestine, had retained possession of Tyre and Sidon, and were considered the national enemies of the Hebrews. St. Mark describes the woman as a “Gentile” by religion, and as a “Syrophenician,” i. e. belonging to the Syrian province of the Roman empire, and to the Phenician. race. There is no good reason for believing that the woman was a proselyte [cf. Hil.]; from the curse of Chanaan down to her personal relations, all is against her. Nevertheless, “crying out, [she] said to him: Have mercy on me,” an expression of her intense compassion, but also of her own suffering brought on by that of her daughter [cf. Chrys. Schanz]. “O Lord, thou Son of David” is the address employed by the woman in imitation of what she had heard. “My daughter [Bert nice; cf. Hom. Clem. iii. 73] is grievously troubled by a devil,” not as if the woman distinguished between a good and a bad possession, or between the dependence on a seemingly good spirit and that on a bad one [cf. Schegg; Philem. ap. Stob. eel. ph. p. 196], but she merely urges the grievousness of her affliction [Origen, Euthymius Schanz, Knabenbauer; cf. Alb.].

Mat 15:23 Who answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying: Send her away, for she crieth after us:
Mat 15:24 And he answering, said: I was not sent but to the sheep, that are lost of the house of Israel.

Who answered her not a word.] β. Jesus and the disciples. Our Lord’s silence is not owing to mere abstraction [cf. Schegg], but to the fact that this was the most inoffensive manner of refusing the favor [Hilary]. The happy importunity of the woman [Chrysostom] occasions a direct refusal, which was not intended as a mere trial of faith [cf. Chrysostom, Arnoldi], but as a manifestation that the call of the Gentiles was to be postponed till after the passion and resurrection [Jerome, Euthymius, Theophylact]; this does not imply that our Lord did not know from the start what he was about to do [cf. Schanz]. The disciples, accustomed to see Jesus comply with the requests of petitioners at once [cf. Mt. 8:16; 14:35, 36], “came and besought him, saying: Send her away,” i. e. grant her petition; but their motive is not only pity for the woman, but also the desire to be rid of her importunity: “for she crieth after us” [cf. Jerome, Theophylact]. They advance this reason because they know that Jesus wishes to remain unknown [cf. Mk. 7:24]. The answer of Jesus, whether the woman heard it [cf. Chrysostom, Euthymius] or not [Schanz], fully agrees with Mt. 10:6, and shows that our Lord, in obedience to his Father and in compliance with the prophecies [cf. Knabenbauer], must live and preach among the Jews, while the Gentiles must wait for the ministry of the apostles [cf. Jn. 10:16; Eph. 2:17].

Mat 15:25 But she came and adored him, saying: Lord, help me.
Mat 15:26 Who answering, said: It is not good to take the bread of the children, and to cast it to the dogs.
Mat 15:27 But she said: Yea, Lord; for the whelps also eat of the crumbs that fall from the table of their masters.
Mat 15:28 Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour.

But she came and adored him.] γ. Our Lord and the Gentile. Her adoration implies her kneeling at his feet [Mk. 7:25], an event that happened after Jesus had entered a house [cf. Mk. 7:24; Zacharias chrysologus, Salmeron, Jansenius, Lapide, Calmet Lam. Knabenbauer], though Augustine [De cons, evang. ii. 49, 103] and Arn. think the first meeting occurred in the house, and the healing outside. The devout act of the woman showed great confidence and humility [cf. Salmeron tom. vi. tract. 29]. Our Lord’s answer is apparently hard, but considers the Gentile in the light of Is. 56:10, 11, and calls her by the name usually applied to the Gentiles by the Jews [cf. Lightfoot, Jansenius, Maldonado, Lapide, Lam. Schanz, Fillion, Knabenbauer], as it is now applied to Christians by Mohammedans. The idea of a pet dog is wholly foreign to the passage [cf. Schegg], for the Greek diminutive accords well with the later Greek and the old Arabic inscriptions found in the Hauran [cf. Z. d. m. G., 1873, tom. 27, pp. 304 ff. 355 ff.], so that they must have been usual also in the Aramaic. Though nearly all maintain that the woman caught Jesus, as it were, in his own words [cf. Jansenius, Lapide, Chrysostom, Paschasius Bruno], by claiming to be treated as dogs are treated by their master, there is some difference of opinion concerning the exact meaning of the woman’s first words: Some regard the Greek particle ναὶ, rendered “yea,” as affirming all Jesus had said [Chrysostom, Euthymius, Theophylact, Salmeron, Maldonado]; others see in it an exception taken by the woman to our Lord’s words, and explaining it as “not so” [Schegg]; the latter render the following Greek conjunctions καὶ γὰρ by “but” [ἀλλά] while the former interpret the same as meaning “for also,” or “also” [γάρ is wanting after καί Mk. 7:28, and occurs in Mt. only in B], and these certainly merit the preference. It is worthy of note that Jesus admired the faith of Gentiles only [the centurion and the woman], but never of Israelites [cf. 8:10]. The other virtues showed by the woman had their root in her faith [cf. Cajetan], so that they are praised implicitly. “Be it done” are words expressing the greatest power, since they show that Jesus has no need of prayer to perform his miracles [Cyril]; this manifestation of his power is elicited by humble and persevering prayer [cf. Thom. Ecclus. 35:21; Ps. 101:18; John 2:4].

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