Scripture: 1st Reading: Num13:1-2,25-14:1,26-29,34-35; Resp. Psalm: Ps106,6-7,13-14,21-23; Gosp. Accl.: Lk7,16; Gospel: Mt15,21-28
Yahweh told Moses to send out men from among the people to spy out the land of Canaan that He had given them. They were to bring news of their findings to Moses and the people. When these returned after forty days, they brought news about the fruitfulness of the land and the fact that the land was flowing with milk and honey, in other words, that the land was prosperous and would be productive and add value to their lives.
The spies also brought other news. For instance that the cities were fortified, that the men in them were of great stature, and that the people they saw were stronger than the people of Israel. This evil report caused consternation and fear among the people of Israel. They even claimed that the land was one that devoured its inhabitants and that they seemed like grasshoppers compared to the people they saw.
As a consequence of this evil report, the people murmured against God. Instead of trusting in the power of God, they trusted in their strength. The people raised a loud cry and wept as if Yahweh had brought them out of Egypt to destroy them in the wilderness. The people had forgotten quickly that Yahweh was a promise keeping God.
As a result of this murmuring and their lack of faith in the power of God, Yahweh told them any one of them who was above twenty years old at the time would die in the wilderness as they themselves had predicted it and that they would bear the consequences of this iniquity for forty years. The sins they committed would no go unpunished. They forgot Yahweh's wonders; they forgot the God who was their Saviour; they closed their eyes to His deeds; "they yielded to their cravings in the desert; they put God to the test in the wilderness."
In divine matters, forgetfulness leads to terrible sin against God's mighty powers. It leads to ingratitude for all the favours done by God. Ultimately, forgetfulness leads to faithlessness; it unfortunately leads to death and destruction. This is why we cannot be tempted to forget the great deeds of God. We must never allow any circumstance of life to push us to forget. We must cling on in faith, the type that the Canaanite woman had in today's gospel.
The Canaanite woman wanted her daughter set free from demonic possession. Our Lord was not answering her. Undeterred, this woman kept crying after our Lord and His disciples. The intervention of the Apostles was on account of this disturbance from the woman. When eventually our Lord paid attention to her, His remark that the food of children (the blessings meant for Israel as a result of His presence) should not be given to the dogs (by implication non Israelites who were not part of the original promise made to Abraham) did not deter this courageous woman. This woman knew where she was going; she knew what she wanted; nothing would stop her from getting it.
Instead of picking offence at our Lord's remarks, this woman answered: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." This woman was not asking for the bread meant for the chosen people. They could have their bread. She was satisfied with crumbs! Expectedly, our Lord was moved by this woman's statement and answered her: "O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you desire." The word of God says that her daughter was healed instantly.
We must learn from these two stories. Faith is important if we are to become God's beloved children. Faith is important if we are to receive the benefits of His promises. Let us learn from the consequences of the lack of faith of the chosen people in the wilderness. Let us emulate the strong faith of the Canaanite woman in today's gospel passage. Let us emulate the strong, unconquerable faith of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (St. Edith Stein). Let us remember that nothing is impossible for God.
Let us pray: Lord our God, you are our Creator and Sustainer. Many times in our lives we have been insensitive to your presence. Open our eyes and our hearts to you. Let us understand that you are always with us. Increase our faith. Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.