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:
In the Gospel reading today, Jesus deals with a request that came from outside the parameters of his mission. When the Canaanite woman asks him to heal her daughter he replies, “No. My mission is only to the Israelites.” However, he gives her what she asked for when her persistence proves that her desire comes from true faith in Christ and his mission. Jesus is not one to say “no” when our faith is real and our request allows him to fulfill his mission.
Parameters are always getting in our way. It’s called, “thinking inside the box.” We neatly box up our understanding of the world, of God, of the Faith, of others, and even who we are and what our potential is. This is a trap. There is much more to Christian life than what’s inside familiar parameters. We need to dare to think outside the box.
What are the limitations that trap you inside your box? Once we identify our limitations, we can grow beyond them.
In what ways are you trapping God inside your box? Let God exceed your limits!
Here’s a spiritual exercise: When you enter church and dip your fingers into the holy water to make the sign of the cross, do it with your left hand. (I wonder, which hand do lefties use?) Does it seem somehow sacrilegious to cross yourself with the “wrong” hand? Why would it be? Get out of the box!
One day, a woman came up to me in church asking if I had change for $20, because she didn’t have any singles to pay for the votive candle that she wanted to light for a prayer request. I didn’t have the cash, so I said, “God doesn’t mind if you light a candle without paying for it. It’s the prayer he’s interested in.” (If she really wanted to help the church, she could increase her donation in the Sunday collection.) But my comment shook her up. It didn’t sound “proper”.
These are examples of little ways that we stay trapped inside our boxes. There are much larger ways, parameters that impact our lives and others’ lives so much that we’re actually sinning when we choose to stay inside the box. To grow in holiness, we must pay attention to how often we hold fast to what is simply habitual or expected or prescheduled or “this is how everyone else does it”.
We need to dare to follow Jesus beyond our boxes. We also need to have faith like that of the Canaanite woman to knock down the walls of pre-set parameters. This is important, because out there, in the great beyond, is where we discover that God is bigger than we’ve imagined him to be. We’re so used to staying inside our little boxes that our trust in God is based upon an unconscious assumption that he’s as limited as we are.
The truth is: When God seems to fail us, it only seems so because we’ve boxed him into our perceptions of all the humans who have failed us. To discover that God has not failed us at all, we have to break free of our preconceived expectations.
Lord: Give me a bold faith when You seem silent. Give me strength to believe firmly that You always listen and that You’ll respond to me with wonders. Amen.
© 2017 by Terry A. Modica