From Father's Desk

Dear Parish Family,

Last week Jesus said to Peter “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” Today, Jesus says to the Canaanite woman, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” Peter did not get what he wished: to walk on the water. The woman did: the exorcism of the demon from her daughter. Examples of great faith and little faith, while also being demonstrations of perseverance and wavering, offered to us in successive weeks.

One would expect the reverse, that the foreign woman who shows no indication of having known Jesus ahead of time, would be far less resolved to insist on her request, than Peter, who has spent each day with the Lord since he began following as a disciple. These beautiful accounts show us disciples how to behave when at prayer, or even in pursuit of virtue: we must be persistent, persevering, even willing to endure insults for what we know to be right and good. There will be a cost even in the asking. No free lunch. The woman’s perseverance actually builds her faith as she uses it, like a muscle.

Some take Jesus’ dialogue with the woman as firm or cold, even as a slight, and find the interaction uncharacteristic. Jesus wouldn’t say such things! Some may even try to set this encounter aside: Jesus was in a bad mood. Nonsense. Whenever we find some aspect of the Gospel initially incongruous, we are invited to probe more deeply in order to understand the many facets of our Lord. We must avoid the temptation to set it aside in order to “keep” our version of Jesus intact.

By one measure, the foreign woman does not belong to the central mission of Jesus. Jesus is sent to redeem Israel, sent to those who are lost among the chosen people, his first task and primary responsibility. But a second step of the process becomes more evident. First, Israel is called to conversion and fidelity to God. Thereafter, the chosen people are meant to be a source of conversion for the whole world, like a beacon on a hill.

The first reading from Isaiah foreshadows this reality. Foreigners will join in worship of the Lord God, and “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples,” says the Lord. The Lord God chose Israel to be a people peculiarly his own, “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,” yet ultimately that reality will take the form of the Church. Jesus takes the Church as his Bride and she is to be a refuge and light for all to see. Hence, Paul can call himself in the second reading, “the apostle to the Gentiles,” the one sent to the Gentiles, to the nations of the world who do not belong to the chosen people.

Two questions to ponder emerge from this reflection: 1) like the woman, what are you willing to beg the Lord for? 2) What is your sense of belonging to the Church, in other words, that holy people God seeks to use for the conversion of the world?

Happy Sunday! Fr. Wilson