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St. Thomas Aquinas, 

Catena Aurea (Golden Chain), 

Gospel of Matthew 15:21-28

(John Henry Parker, v. I, J.G.F. and J. Rivington:London, 1842)

21. Then Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon.  
22. And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil." [p. 561]  
23. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, "Send her away; for she crieth after us."  
24. But he answered and said, "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel."  
25. Then came she and worshipped him, saying, "Lord, help me."  
26. But he answered and said, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."  
27. And she said, "Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."  
28. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.  

Jerome: Leaving the Scribes and Pharisees and those cavillers, He passes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon, that He may heal the Tyrians and Sidonians; "And Jesus went thence, and departed into the coasts of Tyre and Sidon." 

Remig.: Tyre and Sidon were Gentile towns, for Tyre was the metropolis of the Chananaeans, and Sidon the boundary of the Chananaeans towards the north. 

Chrys., Hom, iii: It should be observed, that when He delivered the Jews from the observance of meats, He then also opened the door to the Gentiles, as Peter was first bidden in the vision to break this law, and was afterwards sent to Cornelius. But if any should ask, how it is that He bade His disciples "go not into the way of the Gentiles," and yet now Himself walks this way; we will answer, first, that that precept which He had given His disciples was not obligatory on Him; secondly, that He went not to preach, whence Mark even says, that He purposely concealed Himself. 

Remig.: He went that He might heal them of Tyre and Sidon; or that He might deliver this woman's daughter from the daemon, and so through her faith might condemn the wickedness of the Scribes and Pharisees. Of this woman it proceeds; "And, behold, a woman, a Chananite, came out [p. 562] from those parts." 

Chrys.: The Evangelist says that she was a Chananaean, to shew the power of Christ's presence. For this nation, which had been driven out that they might not corrupt the Jews, now shewed themselves wiser than the Jews, leaving their own borders that they might go to Christ. And when she came to Him, she asked only for mercy, as it follows, "She cried unto Him, saying, Have mercy on me, Lord, thou Son of David." 

Gloss., ap. Anselm: The great faith of this Chananaean woman is herein shewed. She believes Him to be God, in that she calls Him "Lord;" and man, in that she calls Him "Son of David." She claims nothing of her own desert, but craves only God's mercy. And she says not, Have mercy on my daughter, but "Have mercy on me;" because the affliction of the daughter is the affliction of the mother. And the more to excite His compassion, she declares to Him the whole of her grief, "My daughter is sore vexed by a daemon;" thus unfolding to the Physician the wound, and the extent and nature of the disease; its extent, when she says "is sore vexed;" its nature, "by a daemon." 

Chrys., Hom. in quaedam loca, xlvii: Note the wisdom of this woman, she went not to men who promised fair, she sought not useless bandages, but leaving all devilish charms, she came to the Lord. She asked not James, she did not pray John, or apply to Peter, but putting herself under the protection of penitence, she ran alone to the Lord. But, behold, a new trouble. She makes her petition, raising her voice into a shout, and God, the lover of mankind, answers not a word. 

Jerome: Not from pharisaical pride, or the superciliousness of the Scribes, but that He might not seem to contravene His own decision, "Go not into the way of the Gentiles." For He was unwilling to give occasion to their cavils, and reserved the complete salvation of the Gentiles for the season of His passion and resurrection. 

Gloss., ap. Anselm: And by this delay in answering, He shews us the patience and perseverance of this woman. And He answered not for this reason also, that the disciples might petition for her; shewing herein that the prayers of the Saints are necessary in order to obtain any thing; as it follows, "And his disciples came unto him, saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us." 

Jerome: The disciples, as yet ignorant of the mysteries [p. 563] of God or moved by compassion, beg for this Chananaean woman; or perhaps seeking to be rid of her importunity. 

Aug., de Cons. Ev., ii, 49: A question of discrepancy is raised upon this, that Mark says the Lord was in the house when the woman came praying for her daughter. Indeed Matthew might have been understood to have omitted mention of the house, and yet to have been relating the same event; but when he says, that the disciples suggested to the Lord, "Send her away, for she crieth after us," he seems to indicate clearly that the woman raised her voice in supplication, in following the Lord who was walking. 

We must understand then, that, as Mark writes, she entered in where Jesus was, that is, as he had noticed above, in the house; then, that as Matthew writes, "He answered her not a word," and during this silence of both sides, Jesus left the house; and then the rest follows without any discordance. 

Chrys.: I judge that the disciples were sorry for the woman's affliction, yet dared not say 'Grant her this mercy,' but only "Send her away," as we, when we would persuade any one, oftentimes say the very contrary to what we wish. 

"He answered and said, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." 

Jerome: He says that He is not sent to the Gentiles, but that He is sent first to Israel, so that where they would not receive the Gospel, the passing over to the Gentiles might have just cause. 

Remig.: In this way also He was sent specially to the Jew, because He taught them by His bodily presence. 

Jerome: And He adds "of the house of Israel," with this design, that we might rightly interpret by this place that other parable concerning the stray sheep. 

Chrys.: But when the woman saw that the Apostles had no power, she became bold with commendable boldness; for before she had not dared to come before His sight; but, as it is said, "She crieth after us." But when it seemed that she must now retire without being relieved, she came nearer, "But she came and worshipped him." 

Jerome: Note how perseveringly this Chananaean woman calls Him first "Son of David," then "Lord," and lastly "came and worshipped him," as God. 

Chrys.: And therefore she said not Ask, or Pray God for me, but "Lord, help me." But the more the woman urged her petition, the more He strengthened His [p. 564] denial; for He calls the Jews now not sheep but sons, and the Gentiles dogs; "He answered and said unto her, It is not meet to take the children's bread, and give it to dogs." 

Gloss., ap. Anselm: The Jews were born sons, and brought up by the Law in the worship of one God. The bread is the Gospel, its miracles and other things which pertain to our salvation. It is not then meet that these should be taken from the children and given to the Gentiles, who are dogs, till the Jews refuse them. 

Jerome: The Gentiles are called dogs because of their idolatry; who, given to the eating of blood, and dead bodies, turn to madness. 

Chrys.: Observe this woman's prudence; she does not dare to contradict Him, nor is she vexed with the commendation of the Jews, and the evil word applied to herself; "But she said, Yea, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table." He said, "It is not good;" she answers, 'Yet even so, Lord;' He calls the Jews children, she calls them masters; He called her a dog, she accepts the office of a dog; as if she had said, I cannot leave the table of my Lord. 

Jerome: Wonderful are shewn the faith, patience, and humility of this woman; faith, that she believed that her daughter could be healed; patience, that so many times overlooked, she yet perseveres in her prayers; humility, that she compares herself not to the dogs, but to the whelps. 

I know, she says, that I do not deserve the children's bread, and that I cannot have whole meat, nor sit at the table with the master of the house, but I am content with that which is left for the whelps, that through humble fragments I may come to the amplitude of the perfect bread. 

Chrys.:. This was the cause why Christ was so backward, that He knew what she would say, and would not have her so great excellence hid; whence it follows, "Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith, be it unto thee according to thy will." 

Observe how the woman herself had contributed not a little to her daughter's healing; and therefore Christ said not unto her, 'Let thy daughter be healed,' but, "Be it unto thee according to thy will;" that you may perceive that she had spoken in sincerity, and that her words were not words of flattery, but of abundant faith. 

And this word of Christ is like that word which said, "Let [p. 565] there be a firmament." [Gen 1:6] and it was made; so here, "And her daughter was made whole from that hour." 

Observe how she obtains what the Apostles could not obtain for her; so great a thing is the earnestness of prayer. He would rather that we should pray for our own offences ourselves, than that others should pray for us. 

Remig.: In these words is given us a pattern of catechizing and baptizing children; for the woman says not 'Heal my daughter,' or 'Help her,' but, "Have mercy upon me, and help me." Thus there has come down in the Church the practice that the faithful are sponsors to God for their young children, before they have attained such age and reason that they can themselves make any pledge to God. So that as by this woman's faith her daughter was healed, so by the faith of Catholics of mature age their sins might be forgiven to infants. 

Allegorically; This woman figures the Holy Church gathered out of the Gentiles. The Lord leaves the Scribes and Pharisees, and comes into the parts of Tyre and Sidon; this figures His leaving the Jews and going over to the Gentiles. This woman came out of her own country, because the Holy Church departed from former errors and sins. 

Jerome: And the daughter of this Chananaean I suppose to be the souls of believers, who were sorely vexed by a daemon, not knowing their Creator, and bowing down to stones. 

Remig.: Thus of whom the Lord speaks as children are the Patriarchs and Prophets of that time. By the table is signified the Holy Scripture, by the fragments the best precepts, or inward mysteries on which Holy Church feeds; by the crumbs the carnal precepts which the Jews keep. The fragments are said to be eaten under the table, because the Church submits itself. humbly to fulfilling the Divine commands. 

Raban.: But the whelps eat not the crust only, but the crumbs of the children's bread, because the despised among the Gentiles on turning to the faith, seek out in Scripture not the outside of the letter, but the spiritual sense, by which they may be able to profit in good acts. 

Jerome: Wonderful change of things! Once Israel the son, and we the dogs; the change in faith has led to a change in the order of our names. Concerning them is that said, "Many dogs have come about me; [Ps 22:16] while to us is said, as to this woman, "Thy faith hath [p. 566] made thee whole. 

Raban.: Great indeed was her faith; for the Gentiles, neither trained in the Law, nor educated by the words of the Prophets, straightway on the preaching of the Apostles obeyed with the hearing of the ear, and therefore deserved to obtain salvation. 

Gloss., non occ.: And if the Lord delays the salvation of a soul at the first tears of the supplicating Church, we ought not to despair, or to cease from our prayers, but rather continue them earnestly. 

Aug., Quaest. Ev., i, 18: And that to heal the Centurion's servant, and the daughter of this Chananaean woman, He does not go to their houses, signifies that the Gentiles, among whom He himself went not, should be saved by His word. That these are healed on the prayer of their parents, we must understand of the Church, which is at once mother and children; the whole body of those who make up the Church is the mother, and each individual of that body is a son of that mother. 

Hilary: Or, This mother represents the proselytes, in that she leaves her own country, and forsakes the Gentiles for the name of another nation; she prays for her daughter, that is, the body of the Gentiles possessed with unclean spirits; and having learned the Lord by the Law, calls Him the Son of David. 

Raban.: Also whosoever has his conscience polluted with the defilement of any sin, has a daughter sorely vexed by a daemon. Also whosoever has defiled any good that he has done by the plague of sin, has a daughter tossed by the furies of an unclean spirit, and has need to fly to prayers and tears, and to seek the intercessions and aids of the saints.