USCCB Podcast of the Readings:
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew.
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 he did not say a word in answer to her.
His 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 her daughter was healed from that hour.
Good News Reflection: Finding God in the desert
Have you ever escaped from or resolved a conflict, only to find yourself feeling alone and weary, like you’re trudging through a wide desert? The Lord seems far off. He helped you get through the trial, but now where is he? This is how the Israelites felt in today’s first reading. After being enslaved and oppressed and conquered in war, they felt defeated by God rather than loved; they needed his reassurance.
A great wonder of God’s kingdom is that the more abandoned we feel, the more he is actually trying to help us. When we’re tired from our troubles, God has the restoration we seek. However, since he seems so far away, we take matters into our own hands. In this scripture, we read that we’re going “to be given rest.” To receive it, we must simply stop. Stop whatever you’re doing. Stop running after what you think you need. Stop complaining. Stop reacting to your feelings as if they accurately portray the truth.
It was in the desert that the Israelites were strengthened and prepared for the Promised Land; they had to stop running toward their destination and wander slowly around the desert, stopping for long periods. It was in the desert that Jesus was strengthened and prepared for his battle against Satan; he had to take a forty-day sabbatical to get ready for his public ministry.
“I will restore you, rebuild you,” God says to us in this reading. The desert time is a period of resting before the rebuilding. If we believed God’s Word, we would be celebrating with festive tambourines (or guitars or pianos or mp3 players or whatever we’ve got), shouting for joy, proclaiming God’s goodness.
In today’s responsorial psalm, God recommends dancing and merriment. Why? Because he is guarding us like a shepherd. In the Holy Land, shepherds still guide their flocks across the desert. There are long walks between patches of nourishment, so they take it slowly. There’s no rush. Hurrying would increase their thirst and wear them out under the burning sun. The sheep don’t scramble madly in search of getting their needs met, like we do. They simply trust their shepherd.
God is a great Shepherd. He cares more about us than human shepherds care about their sheep. He is with us every step of the way. If we panic and run, he doesn’t run with us, because he’s not panicking, and this is why to us it feels like he’s far off. But as soon as we stop — as soon as we dare to trust our Shepherd and let ourselves rest, accepting the desert conditions instead of darting this way and that way in search of a different landscape — we can notice his peaceful nearness.
Lord, I thank You for the gift of Faith you gave me in my Baptism. Help me to make it grow and work great wonders in Your name. Amen.
© 2018 by Terry A. Modica