We Christians sometimes forget an inconvenient truth that as a result of the Incarnation, Jesus in his humanity was born into a particular culture at a particular time and was subject to the particular prejudices that were present. Oh sure, he pushed its boundaries from time to time; but he was still influenced by the mores of the times.
Case in point: today’s Gospel where for quite a while he is shown to be acting, well, unchristian. Jesus had approached pagan land. To identify the woman Matthew uses a term that was passé at the time: Canaanite, the original settlers in the land that the Jewish people had conquered and who remained somewhat hated enemies ever since. Jesus at first ignored her. The disciples then pleaded with Jesus to send her away. He answered that he didn’t come for anyone but the lost sheep of Israel, effectively cutting her and anyone else that was not Jewish from his mercy, compassion, and salvation. But she wouldn’t give up. She knelt in front of him and begged him. Finally he answered with a rebuke, calling her a dog, a non-person. She cleverly used his answer to cause him to look at her in a different way, recognizing her faith. Jesus was taught a lesson by a foreign woman: to pay attention to those outside his personal mission as he thought to be; you never know where you will find faith.