August 17, 2014: 20th Sunday in Ordinary Time
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 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. (Matthew 15:15-28)
This is one of those passages that may have suffered a bit in translation. It is difficult to put these words of painful rejection into the mouth of Jesus whose mission was to lead his followers to God through his teaching of the Kingdom of God, inclusion, healing and justice. The woman was a Canaanite woman, likely a pagan woman, and not the people with whom Jesus was speaking. Clearly this woman was prepared to do whatever was necessary to convince Jesus to heal her daughter. Even with his initial refusal, she did not give an inch. She was ready to undergo any hardship or suffering to secure the health of her daughter. In the face of this determination and faith, Jesus grants her request with the words, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”
Perhaps no prayer is more common to us than prayers of petition. While we can put aside other forms of prayer in our busy lives, it is when adversity presents itself that we look to God to answer our prayers. Sometimes it is for the frivolous—that we win our soccer game; sometimes it is life and death—that my young child survive this illness. Whatever it is that brings us to our knees, we know firsthand what it is to ask, or beg, for what we need.
To be needy is part of being human; to express that need to God acknowledges that we understand that life provides many humbling moments in which we clearly understand our helplessness. In those moments, as we express our needs in prayer, we once again ask God to be with us as we journey through life’s difficulties.
Consider the other side of supplication—the prayers of gratitude for all that we have been given and the prayers that have been answered. Write a list of all those things on this day and in this place that we are grateful for receiving.