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Today’s readings contain the Gospel reading, Matthew 15: 21-28, which is one that I am afraid is a bit hard for my modern sensibilities. I feel for the woman, who is clearly an outsider, and I feel for her poor daughter. This woman goes to Jesus, mindful of the cultural walls that should have made her mission impossible (remember what Deuteronomy says about Canaanites!), yet,still, she seeks Him.
“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 Jesus did not say a word in answer to her”If I am entirely honest, the silent response of Jesus as this woman pleads for her daughter really bothers me. It is a terror in my soul not to be noticed by the beloved, to seek Him and not have him respond. But this woman remains undaunted, she continues to cry out to Jesus! Was His silence a non-response? Even the disciples want Jesus to respond to her:
“Jesus’s 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 the woman’s daughter was healed from that hour.”First he is silent, and then he reminds her that she is not one of the children, in fact, she is a dog. My modern, and very superficial and thin-skinned sensibilities are insulted for this woman!. I really want to explain that Jesus really did not mean to call her a dog. I want to imagine he was smiling and winking at her when he said this, knowing that he was really going to teach the disciples a thing or two about inclusiveness.
Or maybe I don’t. Maybe it is in facing down the hard truths about ourselves, without fear and in absolute humility that the full height and depth of the Gospel can penetrate to the darkest and most desolate areas in our soul. And maybe His silence isn’t rejection, maybe it is in the dark night of His silence that the deeper truth of my need for Him, and my longing for Him are more fully revealed. He draws forth from me the desire for His mercy because, in the light of His justice and truth, all is revealed. But these are hard to endure, and sometimes I would rather choose blindness to truth.
This woman comes to Jesus in absolute honesty, about who she is and where she stands in light of the Truth as He stands before her. It is her words and actions that indicate that. In the passages before this story, Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus explains that evil in the heart of a person is what defiles a person, and leaves them blind, like the Pharisees who cannot see that disobeying a commandment of God is far worse than not following a tradition that has been handed down by their elders. They are offended by Jesus identifying their neglect of the commandments and in their pride they are blinded and do recognize truth when they are confronted with it. They refuse His justice, so they refuse His mercy.
There is much to admire in the Canaanite woman’s courage to seek Jesus, and her faith to keep on seeking him for the sake of her daughter. I am also drawn to her humility and her lack of presumption. She knows where she stands and in knowing that she avails herself fully to His mercy. And in her perseverance to seek the Lord, she helps all of us to see in His light, and all is revealed. No superficiality or blind arrogance will be tolerated, not if you want to receive the fullness of His healing.
God’s peace and grace be with all of you!
Heidi Knofczynski, Journey to Wisdom
In today’s readings the Lord God admonished, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomor’rah is great
and their sin is very grave”, He would go down and see for Himself with an intent to destroy the evil city. We all know what happened next – Abraham incrementally asked for mercy for the sake of fifty righteous citizens, then 40 and so on – all the way down to 10. Due to the persistence of Abraham, God answered that he would reserve punishment, saying “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it”.
When we look to the state of affairs in today’s society, it’s no stretch to see some similarities with Sodom and Gomor’rah and our times. Rampant promiscuity, abortion, same sex ‘marriage’ – we have it all. And the numbers of faithful appear to be ever dwindling. Yet we all know people who live their lives in Christ-like love and service. We, ourselves try to model ourselves after the saints and live lives pleasing to God. Sometimes it feels lonely to be a part of the few – when the world at large seems to be so contrary to what we believe. It’s vital, then, to take our cues from God and not man. If we keep our eyes on the Light and strive for Eternal life, we will find our way to heaven. Hopefully we will also serve as an encouragement to others.
“They rejected his statutes, the covenant which he had made with their fathers. The vanity they pursued, they themselves became; they followed the surrounding nations whom the Lord commanded them not to imitate.” 2 Kings:17
The word “remnant“ has been coming to my mind a lot lately and I have been trying to write a reflection on it for days, but I could not pull it together (admittedly this is a frequent problem for me). I keep brushing the word aside thinking that the word remnant seems a tad over-dramatic. Is our culture dying so quickly that those who are still faithful to the Church’s positions on the issues of marriage, contraception and abortion in our Catholic churches are already a mere remnant (even if the pews seem full)? Surely that is overstating the case!
Yet in headline after headline, and in discussion after discussion, with Catholic individuals who ought to know better, I am finding that adhering to the Natural Law (the Ten Commandments), particularly in political views is not even considered! Many ( though not all) of my fellow parishioners use a soft sentimentality as the basis for many political positions, how you feel governs your stance. Anything that causes discomfort ought to be re-defined. This is dangerous because so many of these individuals are willingly handing over to Caesar the powers to bind or loose moral teachings – and if you try to make an argument against that, you are completely misunderstood, because so many lack an understanding of what liberty and freedom really mean!!! Are we narrowing down to a remnant of faithful Catholics?
Then the Supreme Court’s ruling striking down DOMA and dismissing Prop 8 came down, not unexpected, but still quite ominous, and after reading Elizabeth Scalia’s excellent article titled “The ‘Party’ is victor; Time to save souls and churches” I realized I was not being dramatic at all. It was the Spirit that place that word in my heart. Not to cause despair, but to show me that the seeds of renewal are even now being sown.
“So too at this present time there is a remnant , chosen by grace.” Rom 11:5
The word remnant first popped into my head during the June 7th rehearsal dinner for my son Matthew and his then bride–to-be Grace. They were married on June 8th (Yes! It was the feast of the Immaculate Heart isn’t that awesome!!!) after a real courtship that was based on discernment of God’s will for them. These two have a profound respect, for each other and their deepening love, for parental authority and a commitment to Christ through their Catholic faith. In fact, it was their Catholic faith that came shining through all the wonderful parties and joy-filled celebrations. Especially in the beautiful Nuptial Mass, where the Gospel was chanted by a newly ordained transitional deacon and Panis Angelicus , Ave Verum Corpus and Gounod’s Ave Maria were beautifully sung. The Mass and all of the celebrations that surrounded it were directly and indirectly proclaiming what marriage truly is: A covenant that is “ordered to the good of the couple, as well as the generation and education of children.” (CCC 1660) Marriage was not just about the two of them, it was a bridging of the past generations to the future ones. It was about the obligations of these two to build up a Culture of Life through their vows to each other and to God.
Both myself and Grace’s mother heard from guests who felt renewed and filled with hope after the wedding. It was so joyfully Catholic! Three generations of the priesthood participated in celebrating it and at least one other young man was undertaking serious discernment for a religious vocation. And it was at the rehearsal dinner that I looked around the room and felt the hope and promise of renewal that God is always offering us! I thought here ,in this room, are some of the remnant, the faithful remnant in an increasingly post-Christian world. God always leaves a remnant. And what a joyful remnant it was! I wish I had words for my gratitude.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
The darkness of the Culture of Death’s attack on marriage, which is an attack on the Church, is even more disheartening because of the ignorant and complacent acceptance of these attacks by so many members of the Church. In the face of this daunting opposition these young people were joyfully, faithfully Catholic. They neither hiding their faith under a bushel basket, or stridently beating people over the head with it. They simply lived it with a joy and maturity. Sometimes it takes darkness to appreciate just how bright the light of Christ shines, and in the growing darkness of our world the joy of this marriage shines so brightly. I know that some of our readers have also been graced with signs of hope like this as well, and to these things we hold on to.
Because the threats that were once vague and veiled and aimed at my Church are solidifying and they are proving to be formidable. I take no comfort in President Obama’s arrogant claim the he won’t force religious institutions to accept gay “marriage”. It is a hollow promise. And every day more souls are giving up the fight, because it looks hopeless, because it is much easier to just give in, because no one they know and respect is willing to stand up and proclaim the truth, and take the insult and calumny that will result from it. The Culture of Life is facing the ravenous dragon in the Culture of Death and we appear to be losing. But we are not. Have faith and endure, and be perceptive of God’s signs of hope! There is a remnant, praise be to God!
Go then, rejoice and exalt over the children of the righteous, for they will all be gathered together and will bless the Lord of all ages. Tobit 13:13
|Matthew and Grace|
Heidi @ Journey to Wisdom
A reflection on John 21: 15-19
Do you pray with the Scriptures? When you read them, do you allow a word or an scene from the passage to speak to you in your heart and draw out from you a prayer? It is essential for each of us enter into prayer in this way. Yet, it is a direction that many “voices” – from the world, and from your own ego – will dissuade you from; because it will reveal your idols, your weaknesses. The Lord seeks to lead us out of those “Egypts” in each one of our souls. To do so demands much; it demands a love that endures all things, hopes all things and to be completely truthful, I do not have that love yet. That is important for me to understand, not for me to despair but so that I can live in His truth, endure in His light and be drawn up into a more perfect love by following His voice.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to Simon Peter a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Tend my sheep.” Jesus said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus had said to him a third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.” John 21: 15-19
Heidi@Journey to Wisdom