Gospel Reflection for the 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
When Jesus spoke in parables with authority, people listened to him and word of him spread throughout the countryside. When he healed and cured people, many others came to him with their own illness or brought the sick to him. In our gospel this Sunday Jesus encounters such person. Her daughter is seriously ill and needs to be healed. But Jesus is not interested in her; she is not a Jew. She is a Canaanite, and therefore a foreigner. Jesus actually ignores her and keeps on walking by! But his disciples urge him to listen to the woman and heal her daughter. But again Jesus says that he came only for the People of Israel; his own people and tribe. But the woman is not easily put off by these words from when we are struggling Jesus. She falls at his feet and pleads with him as she says out loud, ‘Lord, help me’. Again Jesus offers a reason why he will not heal her daughter, but again she gets the better of Jesus and says she is willing to eat the scraps the masters table. She will take whatever help she can get, even if it is scraps. Because of her persistence and faith, Jesus gives her what she asks for; he heals her daughter.
What can this brave and courageous woman teach us today? Prayer is not magic. As we know from experience, when we pray we do not get what we want immediately or automatically. When this happens it disappoints and frustrates us. We ask ourselves whether or not God even heard our prayer. There is the normal temptation to just give up. But this Canaanite woman did the very opposite of giving up and going home. She kept making her case until she got what she wanted.
Prayer is our way of sustaining our friendship with Jesus. It takes time, patience and as the woman in the gospel shows us, great perseverance. It’s easy to pray when things are going well for us. We haven’t any problem praying when we are not struggling or facing a painful and difficult situation. But when we are struggleing, this is when we need to look at this woman. The more that Jesus refused to listen to her, the more she kept on demanding that she be heard. In the end because her faith, Jesus not only gave her what she wanted. He also singled her out and praises her for her faith.
Very often, we are not that different from this woman. We all have our own struggles and difficulties. When we experience these difficulties, this when need to have courage and pray with all our heart. Jesus will not abandon us if we pray with patience and perseverance. Can we make the prayer of this woman our own, Can we pray, Lord, help me?
- Michael Moore OMI