When you read or hear the gospel for today's liturgy, the chances are that the story is so well-known, that a very important aspect of what Jesus was doing may either be diminished or simply overlooked.
Mom Canaanite comes to the disciples and Jesus. She has every reason: her daughter has been captured by a demon. She seemingly pesters the disciples who plead with Jesus: tell her to go away, she is really bothering us and we know she is annoying you.
Nevertheless, the woman, truly a mother seeking a cure for the daughter she obviously loved, would not be turned away. She persisted in asking Jesus "Lord, help me." Now Jesus knows she is a Canaanite woman ... not a part of the Jewish community. Jesus is stern, telling her if he cured her daughter it would be as if he were taking food from the children at a dinner table. He had come to "feed" the Jewish people and their needy. That reply did not stop Mom Canaanite. Even the dogs get scraps from the table she reminded him. She would not step down.
When Jesus heard the words, "Lord, help me!" he was stunned: this was indeed a woman of strong faith. Obviously she had heard Jesus or heard about his amazing care and power. This was the key that opened the door to her daughter's cure.
Many times we come before Jesus with similar words: boiled down they are the same word's the Mom Canaanite uttered: Lord, help me. However, we come from a culture that has grown accustomed to rapid fire response. Weeeeeeeeellllllllll, it just doesn't work that way most of the time with Jesus in responding to our petition, pleas and other bargainings. Sometimes we have to be strong, just as the Canaanite woman was.
Today we honor St. John Mary Vianney. The name Mary stops a number of people. An old tradition that parents gave Mary's name as a "middle" name to their children. In religious orders both men and women take the name of Mary as a part of their name. In "ancient days" when a Jesuit novice pronounced his first vows in the Society of Jesus, his vow formula would contain his name but with the addition of "Mary" in the title.
Now John certainly was a young man who must have prayed and prayed to Jesus for help. John and academics, as we know, were oil and water. They just did not mix. As priests will reflect: dthose written and oral examinations throughout the course of studies leading to the priesthood were not always a piece of cake. But we knew one thing: beat down the doors of heaven, petitioning everyone from God the Father down to the least know saint: help me please. This must have been the common prayer for John who was a known poor student. His ordination was ever in doubt.
Why did he struggle so long? Could it not be that his petitioning was recognized in spades! Shortly after his ordination the word spread: there is a man of compassion and understanding. This is a holy man in the Vianney parish. He is so strong in helping everyone. Lines of penitents stretched for miles at times and people came seeking peace of mind and heart. Surely John's petitioning had a diamond-like reward: he had come to know the human heart and soul. He could bring sinners such much people ... most like so much more than his academically inclined classmates!
Like Mom Canaanite and St. John Mary Vianney: be strong. Speak back to God, to Jesus, to the Holy Spirit. It is the only way you are really going to know yourself ... through divine not academic testing!