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August 3

FOCUS:    Persevere in prayer with confidence.

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In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus is near the cities of Tyre and Sidon, areas that believed in many pagan idols and were unfriendly to Jews who believed in the God of Abraham.  Yet the news of Jesus and his miraculous works had spread to this area north of Jerusalem.  Jesus encounters a Canaanite woman who demonstrates both great faith and great persistence in seeking the Lord’s help.


The woman is a Canaanite and therefore considered a Gentile separated from Jesus’ Jewish heritage.  However, there are Canaanites in Jesus’ genealogy (see Gen. 38 and Josh. 2).  The woman may be making use of this ancestral connection to approach Jesus directly.  With a clear intent to have her daughter released from the power of the demon, the woman professes her faith in Jesus, calling him Lord, Son of David.


Then, the scene unfolds, similar to other stories of encounters with Jesus, with the woman calling out to Jesus.  But Jesus does not initially respond.  How often in our distress or desperation do we call out to God but don’t hear a response?  Do we feel ignored by God?  Or worse yet, unworthy of a response?  Do our sorrow and distress get worse, causing us to feel hopeless?


This woman does not give up hope.  She does not walk away from Jesus but remains persistent in her calling out to Jesus.  The disciples worry about her becoming a distraction and ask Jesus to send her away.  But instead, Jesus further tests the woman’s resolve by saying “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Undeterred, the woman pays him homage and asks Jesus directly for His help.  Jesus then makes an astonishing statement, “It is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs.” But these seemingly harsh words must have been spoken with great love.  Imagine Jesus speaking these words not from a position of power, but from a position of accompaniment, possibly kneeling down next to her and speaking with a smile.  Sensing this love, the woman speaks again, but not out of desperation but with equal wit, humility and understanding, asking just for the scraps of grace that Jesus can offer her.  Jesus responds by granting her wish, acknowledging her “great faith” as the source of her persistence.


 Today’s story is as much about faith as about persistence in prayer.  How great is our faith?  Do we truly believe God will take care of us and grant us the healing we desire?  Faith causes us to trust in God’s mercy, not test his ability to help us.  Faith allows us to persist in asking for God’s help despite the odds against us.


Let us be people of great faith like the woman in today’s Gospel.


Today’s Question for Prayer and Reflection

Do you seek the Lord with expectant faith?