1. This Gospel presents to us a
true example of firm and perfect faith. For this woman endures and overcomes
in three great and hard battles, and teaches us in a beautiful manner the
true way and virtue of faith, namely, that it is a hearty trust in the
grace and goodness of God as experienced and revealed through his Word.
For St. Mark says, she heard some news about Jesus, Mk 7,25. What kind
of news? Without doubt good news, and the good report that Christ was a
pious man and cheerfully helped everybody. Such news about God is a true
Gospel and a word of grace, out of which sprang the faith of this woman;
for had she not believed, she would not have thus run after Christ etc.
In like manner we have often heard how St. Paul in Rom 10, 17 says that
faith cometh by hearing, that the Word must go in advance and be the beginning
of our salvation.
2. But how is it that many more have heard this good news concerning
Christ, who have not followed him, and did not esteem it as good news?
Answer: The physician is helpful and welcome to the sick; the healthy have
no use for him. But this woman felt her need, hence she followed the sweet
scent, as is written in the Song of Solomon 1, 3. In like manner Moses
must precede and teach people to feel their sins in order that grace may
be sweet and welcome to them. Therefore all is in vain, however friendly
and lovely Christ may be pictured, if man is not first humbled by a knowledge
of himself and he possesses no longing for Christ, as Mary's Song says,
"The hungry he hath filled with good things; and the rich he hath sent
empty away," Lk 1, 53. All this is spoken and written for the comfort of
the distressed, the poor, the needy, the sinful, the despised, so that
they may know in all times of need to whom to flee and where to seek comfort
3. But see in this example how Christ like a hunter exercises and chases
faith in his followers in order that it may become strong and firm. First
when the woman follows him upon hearing of his fame and cries with assured
confidence that he would according to his reputation deal mercifully with
her, Christ certainly acts differently, as if to let her faith and good
confidence be in vain and turn his good reputation into a lie, so that
she could have thought: Is this the gracious, friendly man? or: Are these
the good words, that I have heard spoken about him, upon which I have depended?
It must not be true; he is my enemy and will not receive me; nevertheless
he might speak a word and tell me that he will have nothing to do with
me. Now he is as silent as a stone. Behold, this is a very hard rebuff,
when God appears so earnest and angry and conceals his grace so high and
deep; as those know so well, who feel and experience it in their hearts.
Therefore she imagines he will not fulfil what he has spoken, and will
let his Word be false; as it happened to the children of Israel at the
Red Sea and to many other saints.
4. Now, what does the poor woman do? She turns her eyes from all this
unfriendly treatment of Christ; all this does not lead her astray, neither
does she take it to heart, but she continues immediately and firmly to
cling in her confidence to the good news she had heard and embraced concerning
him, and never gives up. We must also do the same and learn firmly to cling
to the Word, even though God with all his creatures appears different than
his Word teaches. But, oh, how painful it is to nature and reason, that
this woman should strip herself of self and forsake all that she experienced,
and cling alone to God's bare Word, until she experienced the contrary.
May God help us in time of need and of death to possess like courage and
5. Secondly, since her cry and faith avail nothing, the disciples approach
with their faith, and pray for her, and imagine they will surely be heard.
But while they thought he should be more tenderhearted, he became only
the more indifferent, as we see and think. For now he is silent no more
nor leaves them in doubt; he declines their prayer and says: "I was not
sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This rebuff is still
harder since not only our own person is rejected, but the only comfort
that remains to us, namely, the comfort and prayers of pious and holy persons,
are rejected. For our last resort, when we feel that God is ungracious
or we are in need, is that we go to pious, spiritual persons and there
seek counsel and help, and they are willing to help as love demands; and
yet, that may amount to nothing, even they may not be heard and our condition
becomes only worse.
6. Here one might upbraid Christ with all the words in which he promised
to hear his saints, as Mt 18, 19: "If two of you shall agree on earth as
touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them." Likewise,
Mk 11,24: "All things whatsoever ye pray and ask for, believe that ye receive
them, and ye shall have them;" and many more like passages. What becomes
of such promises in this woman's case? Christ, however, promptly answers
and says: Yes, it is true, I hear all prayers, but I gave these promises
only to the house of Israel. What do you think? Is not that a thunderbolt
that dashes both heart and faith into a thousand pieces, when one feels
that God's Word, upon which one trusts, was not spoken for him, but applies
only to others? Here all saints and prayers must be speechless, yea, here
the heart must let go of the Word, to which it would gladly hold, if it
would consult its own feelings.
7. But what does the poor woman do? She does not give up, she clings
to the Word although it be torn out of her heart by force, is not turned
away by this stern answer, still firmly believes his goodness is yet concealed
in that answer, and still she will not pass judgment that Christ is or
may be ungracious. That is persevering steadfastness.
8. Thirdly, she follows Christ into the house, as Mark 7,24-25 informs
us, perseveres, falls down at his feet, and says: "Lord, help me!" There
she received her last mortal blow, in that Christ said in her face, as
the words tell, that she was a dog, and not worthy to partake of the children's
bread. What will she say to this! Here he presents her in a bad light,
she is a condemned and an outcast person, who is not to be reckoned among
God's chosen ones.
9. That is an eternally unanswerable reply, to which no one can give
a satisfactory answer. Yet she does not despair, but agrees with his judgment
and concedes, she is a dog, and desires also no more than a dog is entitled
to, namely, that she may eat the crumbs that fall from the table of the
Lord. Is not that a masterly stroke as a reply? She catches Christ with
his own words. He compares her to a dog, she concedes it, and asks nothing
more than that he let her be a dog, as he himself judged her to be. Where
will Christ now take refuge? He is caught. Truly, people let the dog have
the crumbs under the table; it is entitled to that. Therefore Christ now
completely opens his heart to her and yields to her will, so that she is
now no dog, but even a child of Israel.
10. All this, however, is written for our comfort and instruction, that
we may know how deeply God conceals his grace before our face, and that
we may not estimate him according to our feelings and thinking, but strictly
according to his Word. For here you see, though Christ appears to be even
hardhearted, yet he gives no final decision by saying "No." All his answers
indeed sound like no, but they are not no, they remain undecided and pending.
For he does not say: I will not hear thee; but is silent and passive, and
says neither yes nor no. In like manner he does not say she is not of the
house of Israel; but he is sent only to the house of Israel; he leaves
it undecided and pending between yes and no. So he does not say, Thou art
a dog, one should not give thee of the children's bread; but it is not
meet to take the children's bread and cast it to the dogs; leaving it undecided
whether she is a dog or not. Yet all those trials of her faith sounded
more like no than yes; but there was more yea in them than nay; aye, there
is only yes in them, but it is very deep and very concealed, while there
appears to be nothing but no.
11. By this is set forth the condition of our heart in times of temptation;
Christ here represents how it feels. It thinks there is nothing but no
and yet that is not true. Therefore it must turn from this feeling and
lay hold of and retain the deep spiritual yes under and above the no with
a firm faith in God's Word, as this poor woman does, and say God is right
in his judgment which he visits upon us; then we have triumphed and caught
Christ in his own words. As for example when we feel in our conscience
that God rebukes us as sinners and judges us unworthy of the kingdom of
heaven, then we experience hell, and we think we are lost forever. Now
whoever understands here the actions of this poor woman and catches God
in his own judgment, and says: Lord, it is true, I am a sinner and not
worthy of thy grace; but still thou hast promised sinners forgiveness,
and thou art come not to call the righteous, but, as St. Paul says in I
Tim 1, 15, "to save sinners." Behold, then must God according to his own
judgment have mercy upon us.
12. King Manasseh did likewise in his penitence as his prayer proves;
he conceded that God was right in his judgment and accused himself as a
great sinner and yet he laid hold of the promised forgiveness of sins.
David also does likewise in Ps 51, 4 and says: "Against thee, thee only,
have I sinned, and done that which is evil in thy sight; that thou mayest
be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest." For God's
disfavor in every way visits us when we cannot agree with his judgment
nor say yea and amen, when he considers and judges us to be sinners. If
the condemned could do this, they would that very moment be saved. We say
indeed with our mouth that we are sinners; but when God himself says it
in our hearts, then we are not sinners, and eagerly wish to be considered
pious and free from that judgment. But it must be so; if God is to be righteous,
in his words that teach you are a sinner, then you may claim the rights
of all sinners that God has given them, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Then you eat not only the crumbs under the table as the little dogs do;
but you are also a child and have God as your portion according to the
pleasure of your will.
13. This is the spiritual meaning of our Gospel and the scriptural explanation
of it. For what this poor woman experienced in the bodily affliction of
her daughter, whom she miraculously caused to be restored to health again
by her faith, that we also experience when we wish to be healed of our
sins and of our spiritual diseases, which is truly a wicked devil possessing
us; here she must become a dog and we become sinners and brands of hell,
and then we have already recovered from our sickness and are saved.
14. Whatever more there is in this Gospel worthy of notice, as that
one can obtain grace and help through the faith of another without his
own personal faith, as took place here in the daughter of this poor woman,
has been sufficiently treated elsewhere. Furthermore that Christ and his
disciples along with the woman in this Gospel exhibit to us an example
of love, in that no one acts, prays and cares for himself but each for
others, is also clear enough and worthy of consideration.