8 – 8 -18 Wed. wk. 18– Ordinary Time. (II)
Jeremiah 31: 1 – 7
Gospel of Matthew 15: 21 – 28
At that time †Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman of that district came and called out, “Have pity on me, Lord, Son of David! My daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not say a word in answer to her. His disciples came and asked him, “Send her away, for she keeps calling out after us.” He said in reply, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But the woman came and did him homage, saying, “Lord, help me.” He said in reply, “It is not right to take the food of the children* and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Please, Lord, for even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters.” Then †Jesus said to her in reply, “O woman, great is your faith!* Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed from that hour.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Age Old Love of God
This Canaanite woman in the Gospel offers us a model for the Spiritual Life. Recall this past Sunday’s Gospel – when the crowds followed †Jesus across the Sea of Galilee and †Jesus said to them: “You are not looking for me because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled”. (Jn.6:26) The people were not looking for †Jesus because they had grown in their faith – they were looking for †Jesus because they wanted more free food. This woman does not believe she can demand the bread of “divine friendship” – so she asks only for crumbs. “Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters”. (Matt.15:26f) †Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 with loaves and fish and they ate until they were all full, as we read in John’s Gospel; but they still lacked faith in †Jesus. This woman asked for very little – just crumbs – but did so with greater faith.
This woman approached †Jesus with faith and humility. She did not approach Him with a sense of unworthiness – that’s not what we are talking about – rather, she approached †Jesus with true humility. Humility is to be convicted that – in this moment – I do not matter. What matters is the love I have for the Lord, and the love I have for others. That’s what humility is – all the focus is away from myself.
So – to look upon myself as ‘unworthy’ is to put the focus on me – rather than on the Lord. Perhaps it is to walk around with your head bowed down – with the attitude: ‘You know Lord – I’m not worthy’. We have to put our faith in His power – in His love. This woman believed that †Jesus could cure her daughter – so she came to †Jesus with faith in His compassion and love. And †Jesus did not look upon her as unworthy – despite the fact that she was a Gentile. What †Jesus saw was ‘a child of the Father’, someone He wanted to love. Her faith and her humility brought the cure.
Our spiritual lives mature through faith and humility. (Humility is often called the Queen of the virtues.) Too often we look at obstacles in life and say: “Why? Why in the world would God help me? I’m just this multidimensional mess. I’m a terrible sinner. Why would He help me?” And we fall into discouragement. But the Canaanite woman approached †Jesus saying: “Well – why not me? Why can’t †Jesus help me even though I’m not a Jew?” †Jesus does not care about all the excuses. Why do I think: ‘He can’t help me’? †Jesus only desires my heart – that’s all He wants. He wants a heart filled with faith and humility – and if it is – He can do wonders for us – like He did for this woman. Humility is to approach †Jesus with the impossible. “I just can’t do this myself.” It is an Act of Faith in the power of God – trusting in His compassion and His love.
St. Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans: “For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable”. (Rom.8:29) The Lord will not turn us away. He will answer our prayer. He will either say: ‘Yes’ – or ‘No’ – or – ‘Be patient’.
In our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah – the Lord declared: “With ‘age-old love’ I have loved you; so I have kept my mercy toward you. Again I will restore you, and you shall be rebuilt”. (Jer.31:3ff) This is addressed to the Israelite people who – time and time again had rejected God. ‘Age-old love’ is a love which persists despite the fact we may have turned away from the Lord. It is the kind of love the Lord has for us. God’s love is perfect. It doesn’t matter what you have done. It doesn’t matter whether or not you deserve His love; He will give it to us anyway. We may have really messed up in life – but the Lord still loves us – still loves us. The Lord will never abandon us – just like He did not abandon this woman. God’s love is lavished on all His people – regardless of faith – creed – color or culture – it makes no difference. He lavishes His love on everyone. He doesn’t put – a little bit here – and a little bit there – and a lot more over here. He gives His all – that is the nature of God’s love. It is not only for the ones who trace their roots to the original tribes of Israel.
Epiphanius the Latin was a 5th century Church Father and he wrote: “The Lord came out from the Jews – and the woman came out from the Gentile territory. He left the Jews behind and the woman left behind idolatry and an impious lifestyle. What they had lost – she found. The one – who they denied by the law – she professed – through her faith.” (excerpt from Interpretation of the Gospels, 58)
We have to get out ‘the control room of our lives’ and surrender to God in all things – not trying to control everything. There is a buzz word that we hear a lot about these days – it is called: ‘inclusion’ – to be included. Can I include God in all areas of my life? Or are there some areas of my life where I say: “Lord, stay away from this – I don’t want you to be a part of that part of my life”. Can I include others – with the eyes of faith, can I see †Jesus in those who are unlike me. The Canaanite woman included †Jesus in her life – even though she wasn’t a Jew – she was a Gentile. Humility and faith broke down a social barrier and a personal barrier. †Jesus included her and her daughter in His ‘age-old love’. They were both given new life.
The author of “The Cloud of The Unknowing” wrote: “A person is humble when he stands in the truth with the knowledge and appreciation for himself as he really is”. Do you appreciate yourself – as you truly are – a child of God? That you could ask God for anything – you can go before God boldly – just as this woman did – but still with humility, understanding that God is God – and I am not. So I can ask for what I need – and He wants us to ask for what we need, but as long as we are willing to accept His will in all things. The truth is – you are loved by Christ – just like this Gentile woman. Believe it!
Like the ‘age-old love’ of God – let us always love others –
even when it is difficult – and even when it is unpopular.
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.