BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO FEAR THE LORD
(Homily for Thursday 14 February, 2019)
Our attitude in the moment of trial determines the type of faith we have in God. As we said some time ago, it is during the trying moment, challenges, sickness, hardships, huddles of life that we showcase the stuff we are made of especially the level of our faith. Yes, we may all claim to have faith in God when things are moving normal, when we prayed, it worked out for us as exactly as we prayed. During this time, we may not understand the plight and condition of those who prayed more than we do even embarked on fasting, yet at the end, it does seem that nothing comes out of their prayer and fasting.
How do we handle our situation when things seem to move toward the opposite direction? Many during this time of trials have resolved to seek for a solution elsewhere, in a negative way rather than placing their trust in God who knows all our needs even before we make our requests to Him in prayer.
The Gospel of today presents us with the story of the Syro-phoenician woman who deserves the name 'woman of great faith'. I think the gospel of today is for a purpose and for a reference point and to remind us the importance of steadfastness and keep waiting for God when we are facing it hard, instead of running from pillar to post in search of a solution and by so doing destroy the faith we have already.
Just imagine the insults and humiliation this woman received today in the gospel because of her faith in Christ. when I was going through this gospel reading, I was asking, is it a crime that this woman has faith in Christ and then sought Him for healing? What did she do to receive the initial negative treatment by Christ and His disciples? How many of us, in all honesty, will remain after the ill-treatment this woman received just because she was looking for a cure for her daughter?
Let us just go back to the reading and see things clearly and it will help us to understand the type of faith this woman possessed. I would like us to see this version of the story according to the gospel of Matthew. When this woman first came with her request hoping to be giving attention, Jesus ignored her. The first blow and insults she received. Let us not forget that it was her faith that drove her to Christ but the attention was not given to her.
The second stage, the disciples of Christ came to Christ asking Him to send this woman away because for them she is making noise, disturbing them with her request (Mt 15:23), second blow (insult). If you are in this woman's position, what will you do, may be when you are praying, pouring your heart and mind to God, somebody will just term your prayers as making noise?
Third stage: Now when Christ gave the woman attention, He told her, Woman I have been sent only to the lost sheep of the people of Israel (Mt 15:24). This is indirectly telling the woman you are in a wrong place, third blow (insult). The woman upon these three insults already received persisted even to the extent of kneeling before Christ begging Him, Sir help me (Mt 15:25).
The fourth stage: Christ answered the woman, “it is not right to take the Children’s food and throw it to the dogs” (Mt 15: 26; Mk 7:27). I think this is the high point of the insult or blow this woman received in a bid to obtain healing for her daughter (the fourth insult). When we read this, it sounds so simple, just come to think of it that this woman was reduced to the level of a dog just because she came to Christ seeking favour. As if that was not enough, this woman then proved to Christ, His disciples, the crowd and the entire world especially the Christians of the 21st century that she is indeed a woman of great faith. Just imagine her response “That is true Sir, she answered, but even the dogs eat the leftovers that fall from their masters’ table” (Mt 15: 27). It was at this juncture that this woman even taught Christ that her faith in Him and in God is not just ordinary but a deep-rooted faith and seeing this, Christ raised His hands and said O Woman indeed you are a very powerful woman of great faith, go for what you are asking for is granted (Mt 15:28).
Just imagine the stages, the blows, the humiliation and insults this woman received just because she wants her daughter to be healed. Imagine also the love she has for the daughter which made her endure all these. In our own human calculations, judgments and interpretations, all these may be insults, blows, humiliation on the personality of this woman but in the eyes of God, it is not. This woman’s case was used by Christ to teach us a lesson on perseverance, patience and steadfastness especially in our relationship with God.
At times God allows us to be tempted to see our fidelity to Him. I know that the woman in the gospel experienced a lot just to obtain what she is asking for and eventually her faith was tested and was proved to be a strong one and today she remained a reference point and one of the heroes of faith recorded in the bible. Mind you, it is not always that God permits us to go through ugly experiences before He attends to us but in case if such comes our way, let us not to be discouraged because of our condition, if we remain steadfast till the end, can as well be a reference point to others who may be passing through all we have experienced, as in the case of this woman who today is serving as an example for us.
Let us always pray for a strong faith especially when things are not working as we planned. As we celebrate St. Valentine, saints Cyril and Methodius today, may our love for one another be genuine, unconditional and uncontaminated!
Let Us Pray: Lord Jesus, give me a strong faith that will persevere in difficult times, May your love for me continue to move me to love others as you have loved me. Amen.