29 January 2012

Homily on the Canaanite Woman

Which of us here wouldn’t welcome a deeper, more abiding faith? With all the problems in our broader world, and the troubles in our own hearts and lives, a strong and vibrant faith could help us cope with life’s twists and turns.
All of us want it. The question is, how do we get it? We need not buy lots of books. We don’t have to travel on distant pilgrimages. We don’t have to change our address, or our job, or even our parish.
No; for each and every one of us, the answer’s much closer to home. Take a look at the woman in today’s Gospel. She had a daughter, every mother’s dream…but her dream had become a nightmare. Her daughter was demon possessed.
When she heard that Jesus had come to her neighborhood, she went to ask his help. “Lord, have mercy; my daughter is demon possessed.” And how did he respond?
First he gave her silence. But she wouldn’t quit.
Then he told her he was sent only to Israel. But still she begged.
Finally he said, “It isn’t right to give the children’s bread to the dogs.”
She took him at his word and said, “Yes, Lord—yet even dogs get the crumbs.”

To us, it may seem as if the Lord is being cruel. We get so caught up in the coldness of his words, that we miss the warmth of his heart. And that’s because, I’m convinced, our experience of him is so different from hers.
We want to have deeper faith, but we don’t realize that the troubles, and problems, and sins we face in ourselves and in those we love are all the means God uses to strengthen our faith. We’re like a man who goes to the gym, and sees all the equipment, and says, “How will I ever get fit?”
Think about that problem you’ve been struggling with. Perhaps you told it to the priest in confession. Perhaps you’ve kept it bottled up inside. Then late at night, it all comes rushing in…a sinful habit you struggle to break…a relationship all in tatters… the loneliness of someone who’s single but doesn’t want to be…or the heartbreak of those who want to be parents, but can’t quite seem to conceive.
What’s the problem? What is it you carry around inside? Beloved, that’s the thing God means to strengthen your faith. For the woman, it was her daughter. For you—well, only you can say.
We must learn to tie the Gospel together with the pains and struggles we face—not only the little ones, but also the big ones, the ones we’ve gotten used to, the ones we think nothing can help.
“But I’ve tried to do that,” you say, “and it didn’t make a difference.”
When I taught at seminary, I met a most remarkable man. Cliff Lloyd was a Welshman who served in World War II. After the war, he helped in training troops. When he emigrated to Canada, he earned a PhD and was founding president of a university. But then he got a very bad stroke. It affected his speech and his mobility. He retired.
One day he phoned me. He was 76 year old, and wanted to get a theological degree. At first I tried to discourage him. But he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. The last time I saw Cliff—and he got his degree, by the way—he told me, “I have something for you.” Then he gave me a paper with a drawing on it. A large bird has just swallowed a frog. But the frog’s two arms are coming out of the bird’s mouth and grabbing the bird by the throat. Below the picture, the caption reads, “Never give up.”
Take a look this morning at your deepest hurts and heartaches—the things you just can’t wrap your mind around. Don’t just learn to live with them. See them for what they are—the parts and places of your life where God is working, calling you To call on him…
To exercise your faith…
To learn to persevere, like this Canaanite woman…
To say, with Jacob of old, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
Our greatest problems are really our greatest opportunities, to learn with this woman to pursue God: to ask, and seek, and knock, and not be turned away until we have touched his very heart.
For his heart towards us is good, just as it was towards her. “Oh woman,” he said, “your faith is great. Let it be done as you ask.” And her daughter was healed instantly. The Lord is not cruel; how could he be? He died for us. The Lord is not apathetic; he came from heaven to seek and save us. The Lord is not powerless; he who made everything from nothing can give you what you need. He who raises the dead can surely bring new life to your heart and home. He who forgives sinners can cleanse you, and make you white as wool.
So keep on asking…keep on seeking…keep on knocking. He promises that everyone who asks, receives; everyone who seeks, finds; and to everyone who keeps knocking, the door will be opened. Let us try his words and prove that he is faithful!

1 comment:

rsctt603 said...

YES!..we must perservere..