Howdy, y’all! I’m typing from my sunny guest bedroom in lovely Melrose, Massachusetts, where I’m staying with my aunt for the next week. So why am I putting my vacation on pause to type on my quiet blog for a while? Because I went to mass yesterday, and heard one of my least favorite gospels and then what was possibly one of my favorite homilies. Let’s take a look, shall we?
“Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.”
So yeah, I really never liked this gospel, taken from Matthew 15. In it, Jesus looks rude and even bigoted. The poor lady just needs help! And He ignores her! How does that fit in with the loving, powerful Christ we see everywhere else? I was confused as the priest finished the reading yesterday, but looking forward to hearing what thoughts Father Mark had to give us. To my surprise, Father started talking about prayer and desolation, a topic that I’ve written about before. What do those even have to do with anything? Well, let’s dissect the reading. Y’all know how much I love doing that.
So the Canaanite woman is pretty desperate, right? Her daughter is sick, tormented by demons. Nobody could help her, so she goes to this famous traveling preacher, a foreigner even, to beg for his help. With all other hopes exhausted, she falls back on someone that she’s sure can help her child. And what does Jesus do?
He ignores her.
Gosh, sounds mean, right? Jesus does not answer a word, but the woman continues to beg Him for help. Do you ever feel like God is ignoring your prayers? Like He’s staying silent while you buzz around? Why would He do that? Jesus could have fixed the woman’s daughter whenever He wanted. But He wanted to help the woman herself, too. He’s testing her faith, to see if she’ll give up at the first roadblock. Does she continue? Yes! Her faith is strong enough to keep her praying, even when it feels like nobody is listening. But wait, it gets worse!
Jesus insults her!
He all but calls her a dog! Ouch! Shouldn’t this be the point where she gives up because she doesn’t have the instant answer she wanted? I hear from a lot of friends going through tough times that they feel like God is out to get them or that He hates them and enjoys seeing them miserable. This reading may even seem to confirm that God does that. But does it really? Couldn’t this be yet another test, yet another roadblock? Can this woman, who like most characters in the gospel is standing in for us, endure through this trial too?
She does! And she does without complaining about unfair treatment, because she knows that even though she’s not owed a miracle, Christ can give her child healing. She responds with humor, even! And her faith is all the stronger for it.
So what does this mean for us?
This shows us that sometimes, prayer can be hard. We can feel like God is ignoring or even hating us. We can ask for what we need and feel like nothing, not even God, can help us. We might want to give up. But we should keep praying, keep pestering God, keep having faith, because that’s how God not only gives us what we need, but makes our faith and joy greater for it. He stretches us, makes us stronger, when He tests us like this. So if you’re going through desolation, through a time of trial and seemingly empty prayer, keep on praying! There is an answer coming, and the answer will help you be the person you are made to be. Be perseverant. Be faithful. Be hopeful.
Love to all!