A lot of name-calling goes on in today’s Gospel. Matthew calls this woman a Canaanite; not a polite way of referring to a citizen of the lands north of Israel in Syro-Phonenicia. He might as well say ‘worthless disenfranchised pagan.” Jesus, of course, compares his responsibility to Israel [his children] and others [the dogs]. In terms that hardly seem more charitable. At least he acknowledges her as part of the household, although a rather demeaned part.
God’s plan in welcoming the Gentiles was not to exclude Israel, just as God’s election of Israel was intended ultimately to welcome all humanity into the family of God. It is difficult for us, because we so often desire to divide the world into us and them, to remember that our salvation is dependent not upon the sort of people we are but upon the mercy of God, which is for all people.
The woman throws out a few names of her own: “Lord” is a term of respect, not necessarily God-language in ancient days. The most important name she uses is “Son of David.” With this phrase she recognizes Jesus as Israel’s rightful ruler and God’s anointed. In the end, her name-calling trumps the lot and carries the day! She saw Jesus clearly and he saw her for who she truly was, a woman of faith.
What demon torments us? It might be consumerism; false expectations and hopes that take us away from the Gospel values; self-centeredness that separates us from those who care for us. What heals our demon? Focusing on Jesus, being turned toward the good of others. Persistence in seeking the good of others is possible only when we have healthy relationships. Both prayer and good works require persistence, for that is how we form ourselves in the good habits of being turned toward God and others.