Sacred Heart

Catholic Church

Imlay City, Michigan  Tel: (810) 724-1135

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Fr. Paul Ward

Sat. & Sun., August 16 & 17, 2014
20th Sun. in Ord. Time, Cycle A
Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Jesus Tests the Canaanite Woman
(Mt 15:21-28)

   In today’s Gospel passage, our Lord tests the perseverance in prayer of a Canaanite woman. This episode serves us today as a lesson in how to offer up our prayers of petition.

   However, just a few reminders about some aspects of parish life. Most importantly are the parish children: I wish to offer some words of praise for the very small children and the volunteers who participated in the Catholic Catechism Camp. The attendance was higher than previous years, and for this I am very happy. [
Alabanza extra por las familias hispanas. Además, unas notas de la pobre asistencia el día 15 de agosto.] In this same vein, I remind the parents that when school starts, so does catechism, and to make sure their children are there from the very first day of class in September. Forming the parish children and youth in the faith is among the most important apostolates of our parish.

   Let us now turn to the passage of the Canaanite woman. Here we see a woman who is not a member of Israel or Judea, a woman who could be considered not a member of the Chosen People. In the blood of Christ, the covenant was opened up to the whole world, not by circumcision but by faith and baptism, but for the moment she was clearly an outsider. That explains the reason Christ gives for not paying attention to her: His mission was to Israel, and only after his Spirit would come down would the new Chosen People, the Catholic Church, have a world-wide mission.

   But I wish to focus on her prayer, for here we can learn something very useful for our spiritual lives. You will notice that three times she speaks to the Lord. Her words are a prayer, that of petition. This is a prayer in which we ask for something, for ourselves or others, in contrast to prayers in which we praise God, repent from our sins, love him silently in our minds, meditate on his words and the Church’s teachings, and so forth. We’re asking. The Catechism ways, “Filial trust is tested – it proves itself – in tribulation. The principal difficulty concerns the prayer of petition, for oneself or for others in intercession. Some even stop praying because they think their petition is not heard.” Such is the case of this poor woman.

   Let us look even more closely at Christ’s reply. The woman spoke three times, and Jesus replied three times. First, the Lord replied not to her but to the apostles. This is the first trial of prayer, we ask, and we think that the Lord isn’t answering. The Lord did not speak to her. She was alone in her silence. The Lord heard her, and even loved her we shall see, but he didn’t let her hear him, as she needed to be tried by tribulation.

   At the second prayer, when she says simply, “Lord, help me,” her petition is less specific but more insistent and therefore more trusting. Now the Lord speaks to her, and gives her the reasons why he will not give her what she asks for. Once again, he is testing her, seeing if she will persevere in prayer, seeing whether she really trusts in Him and in his Divine Mercy. She passes the test, and still presses on.

   At the third intervention of this woman, Christ now turns to her, and shows her is face. He speaks directly to her, and grants her what she asked for.

   If she had given up at the beginning, would we here today be discussing her? Probably not. If she had desisted when it was tough, would we say she had faith? I don’t think so. But she did not give up, nor desist, so now she stands as an example to all of us of what it is to ask, to ask with insistence, to not give up when we perceive the silence of heaven. Let us, therefore, engage often in the prayer of petition, especially asking for heaven, for freedom from sin, for virtues and for the Holy Spirit’s gifts, for a greater prayer life and more courage under the cross. Let us also ask for those temporal goods which are truly needs of ours, not only for ourselves but for our neighbor, even for our enemy.

   I myself continually have private novenas going, and I endlessly offer up to the Lord prayers for all of you – such is my duty but privilege as a priest, as God has chosen me, who am unworthy, to be a mediator between God and man in that One Mediator who is Jesus Christ our High Priest. Trust the Lord, as Mary always did and still does, and ask him for all those good things which a holy heart truly desires. Amen.















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