August 9, 2017
(St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross,Virgin and Martyr, [Edith Stein] )
The LORD said to Moses and Aaron: “How long will this wicked assembly grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the children of Israel against me. Tell them: By my life, says the LORD, I will do to you just what I have heard you say. Here in the desert shall your dead bodies fall. Forty days you spent in scouting the land; forty years shall you suffer for your crimes: one year for each day.” Nm_13:1-2,25–14:1,26a-29a,34-35
But the woman came and did him (Jesus) 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.” Mt_15:21-28
If you ever wondered why the Israelites wandered around in the desert for 40-years after they left Egypt, instead of heading directly for that “Promised Land”, today we heard the answer.
Because they lost faith in the God who freed them from slavery in Egypt;
because they lost faith in the God who fed them in the desert, who gave them warmth and light in the cold dark nights with a column of fire and shade from the blazing sun by day with a column of cloud;
because they lost faith in the God who brought them water from a rock and quail from the sky;
because they forgot all of those supernatural blessings showered upon them by God, and imagined that they alone had to conquer those inhabitants of this land that was “overflowing with milk and honey;”
because they lost faith in God, God blocked their entrance into that Paradise and granted them instead, their greatest fear: to die in the desert wilderness.
And the 40-years was the time it took to cleanse away a rebellious generation and grow a new crop of faithful Israelites.
It’s funny, because it all reminds me of two ancient stories.
The first was a fable about a boy who constantly cried wolf when a wolf was nowhere to be seen. Until finally his rescuer gave up on him and his prophesy of doom was fulfilled, when the wolf actually ate him . . .
The moral being, that if we keep our focus on all of our dislikes and fears, as the Israelites did with their constant grumbling, and not on our hopes and our dreams, whatever our focus is on – is what we WILL eventually get.
The second story was the legend about a town that was terrorized by a wolf who would come at night and eat their children. When their plight came to the attention of a wise and compassionate friar, by the name of Francis, Francis consoled the townsfolk and then sought out and befriended the wolf, who later became the town’s hero – after they provided his need for food, instead of his having to eat the children to keep himself alive.
But when we keep our focus on God, God will provide everything we need, including the answers to even our hardest dilemmas.
In our Gospel today, the non-Jewish, Canaanite woman was one of those people who truly understood Jesus and focused on the hope instead of despair.
She knew that Jesus had the power to heal her daughter.
She also knew that she was totally out-of-place in asking Jesus to help her, as a foreigner, just like the (non-Jewish) centurion who asked Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant. (Mt_8:5-13)
And yet both of them were humble enough to accept their lowly position relative to Jesus. And both of them had Faith enough to go way out of their way to seek His help.
When our faith is strong enough to go out of our way to seek God’s help, God will reach out to offer it. And that help may come in ways we never even thought of. All we need do is keep our focus on God, with fearless persistence, and trust in Jesus.
And what we’ll find is that His love for us is so absolutely boundless that, as St. Paul confessed, “We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.” (Ph_4:13 paraphrase)
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