JOURNEYING WITH JESUS IN FAITH
The woman in the today’s miracle belonged to the old Canaanite stock of the Syro-Phoenician race. The Canaanites were regarded as pagans and idolaters and, hence, as ritually unclean. But this woman showed “a gallant and an audacious love which grew until it worshipped at the feet of the Divine, an indomitable persistence springing from an unconquerable hope, a cheerfulness which would not be dismayed”. By granting the persistent request of the pagan woman, Jesus demonstrates that his mission is to break down the barriers and to remove the long-standing walls of division and mutual prejudice between the Jews and the Gentiles. God does not discriminate but welcomes all who believe in Him, who ask for His mercy and who try to do His will.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Isaiah and proclaims to the Jewish people of that time that outsiders could be saved: “The foreigners who join themselves to the Lord, ministering to him, loving the name of the Lord, and becoming his servants-all who keep the Sabbath free from profanation and hold to my covenant, them I will bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer.” These are foreigners who seem to remain foreigners and yet follow the ways of the Jewish people. The point of the Prophet Isaiah is that all can be saved. Yet he is not saying that all are saved.
In this account, there are three movements. The first involves Canaanite woman’s journey of faith. Leaving her own religion behind she turns to a Jewish rabbi, Jesus, and places her faith in Him. She looks to Him for a miraculous cure for her daughter.
Friends how often are we pressed down by cares and worries and we are oblivious of how great our God truly is? The Canaanite woman was willing to leave her religion behind; her ego behind; her prejudice behind; her comfort zone behind; her shackles behind and everything that held her captive or served as a barrier between her and her happiness, joy and wholeness. We must be certain of the fact that more often than not we remain in shackles of sadness and worry when we fail to reach out to God in moments of misfortune. Sometimes, we feel that we can solve our problems ourselves. Even in times when we approach Jesus, it is not with the same conviction with which the Canaanite woman did.
For her trouble, she received silence from Jesus. She was rebuffed, humiliated, and given a cold shoulder from Him. Jesus’ disciples, annoyed by the fact that she was bothering Him with her loud crying, seek to get rid of her. They want Jesus to send her away. So Jesus says to her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
Dear friends, how often do we feel God is silent when evil is on us? How often do we feel alone and discouraged when in difficulty? Sometimes it seems as though Jesus is really silent to our cries for help. However, we know that the silence of Jesus in today's gospel narrative was one to elicit faith in the woman; a silence that was mean to draw her into a more intense relationship and longing to be united with Him, who is Lord. As the psalmist says, "Be still and know that I am God" Ps. 46:10.
Then comes the second movement. The woman presses in on Jesus, and falling on her knees in front of Him she cries out, “Lord, help me.” Like Peter in last Sunday's gospel, the Canaanite woman cries out in faith. We must never take our eyes off Jesus. He is never far away from us. Like a sunflower, which follows every movement of the sun, so we turn towards God each time, especially when the cares and worries of life seem to consume us.
For her second effort Jesus tells her, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” The term "dogs" was a derogatory Jewish word for the Gentiles. Dogs were regarded by the Jews as unclean, because they would eat anything given to them, including pork. The woman noticed, however, that Jesus had used the word kunariois--the word for household pets – rather than the ordinary Greek word for dogs - kuon. She also observed that Jesus had used the word for dogs in a joking way – a sort of test of the woman's Faith.
Beloved, do you realize that you're valuable to God? Regardless of who you are, regardless of the state of life you're in, regardless of your sin, you're still wonderfully and fearfully made by God. You're the apple of God's eyes, and not a hair of your head falls to the ground without God's foreknowledge and will. The woman would not allow her position in life affect her faith in Jesus. She knew she was a gentile and ordinarily had no business with Jews, nonetheless she was willing and ready to bear the brunt of humiliation as a sign of faith.
Furthermore, nothing was going to deter the woman from her desire. How often do we get discouraged when we seem to be rebuffed or when are prayers don't get answered as we desire or when we want them? We learn today that "na who dey look for something him hand dey long pass"!!! She knew what she wanted and she was not going to be easily dissuaded from her request. Jesus himself admonishes us, "Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door will be opened unto you"' Matt 7:7.
Then comes the final movement. In abject humility with her face in the dirt, stripped of her dignity, having abandoned her own religious background, she has nothing left, not even her pride. “Please, Lord,” she softly insists, “even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” What the Canaanite woman is saying is that she doesn’t deserve anything. “But,” she asks, “how about giving me scraps that accidentally fall from your abundance?” With that, the heart of Jesus is vanquished.
Jesus saw in this Canaanite woman a reality that she didn’t even see herself. He saw in her a faith that could withstand any assault; a love that was divine; a hope that could not be shaken. He tested her mettle and she found something within herself that she didn’t know even existed. Joined into the humiliation that Christ would later suffer, she transcended ordinary humanity and came into a level of life that was God’s. Her three-step journey in faith mirrored Christ’s.
The critical point of it all is that Jesus sees the same thing in you and in me. Had Jesus granted her request right away, this woman would never have ascended to the heights of glory that she did. We must see that in the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give away, the more we gain. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. In that, we pass from what is human into what is divine. It’s the path of Jesus. Like in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the cup should pass him by but the Father's answer was not rescue but resurrection! God still deals with us in the same way today. We need to be more trusting and have a dogged faith in God that He has us in the palms of his hands, and everything that happens to us has His mark on it. He alone can write straight on crooked lines, and he alone can bring good out of a seemingly very bad situation.
In the divine scheme of things, the more we lose the more we win. The more we give, the more we receive. The more we go down, the higher we ascend. Ask anyone who has ever successfully completed a recovery program, they will tell you that you find power over whatever demons beset you when you surrender to your Higher Power.
God came among us with healing power and He is looking for our faith. The Canaanite woman came to God in faith and in search of healing and found it. Your task and mine as well is to live a life-story just like hers.
Prayer - Lord Jesus, your love and mercy knows no bounds. May we trust in you always and pursue you with indomitable persistence as this woman did. Increase our faith in your saving power and deliver us from all evil and harm. Amen!!!