Thursday, August 14, 2014

"O woman, great is your faith!"

In this Sunday’s Gospel (20A) for August 17, 2014, Jesus heals the daughter of the Canaanite woman because her faith was so great.  He also rebuked the disciples because their faith was too little. Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.

These readings fare among the most difficult passages in the Bible. St. Paul seems to be talking in circles when he talks to the Romans. In the Gospel, Jesus appears to be cold, even callous to the woman crying out for help. We need to spend some time trying to understand these readings so we can profit from the Church's message to us today.

Who is in and who is out

In our liturgy for Sunday we consider the tension in the early Church between the Jews, the Chosen People, and the Gentiles. Fr. James Gilhooley notes that this story perhaps contain the toughest language used by Jesus in the Gospels. He tells the woman His mission is to the Jews. It cannot be shared with dogs - which is how Jews regarded Canaanites.

Arguments about who is in and who is out are just as relevant today as they were back then. Our Burning Question this week captures the flavor of the story for those of us in today's Church: Do you think non-Catholics go to heaven?

Fr. Alex McAllister SDS reminds us that we Catholics risk falling into a similar trap as the Jews of Jesus' day. We know that we possess the fullness of the truth of the Gospel in the doctrines and traditions of the Church. In this we are greatly privileged; but that does not mean that it is any easier for an individual Catholic to gain entry to the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus Christ will not exclude anyone from God's love and mercy. But, Fr. Joseph Pellegrino warns, those who think they have a right to focus their infantile insecurities into hatred of others have themselves excluded Christ from their own lives.

Deep vs. Superficial Faith

The story of this nameless pagan woman would forever be told by Christians as an example of persistence. We see a woman determined not to let her one chance of healing for her daughter pass her by. Motivated by love, she would not let Jesus ignore her or tell her, “No.” Her persistence pays off as she secures the word from Jesus that her daughter would indeed be healed.

Fr. John J. Ludvik says the lesson we learn is that whatever is of enduring value is not achieved without a struggle. Whether it is our personal struggle for holiness or our communal pursuit of justice, we will face justice, we will face setbacks. But, Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains, Christ’s Holy Spirit will always smile within you and me when we ask for what we need. We should let nothing stand in the way of His grace - not our own origins, not our status in life, not our sins, and maybe not even our rejection by others. It will take a determined commitment to our ideals for them to be realized and the humility to understand that much will be left undone in our lifetime and passed on to another generation of believers.

Many people think faith is belief that. Belief that God exists, or that Jesus is the Messiah. This woman certainly has this kind of belief. Yet, Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains, faith is more than belief that. It is belief in. To believe in someone is to trust him, to entrust something of value to him, even to entrust ones very self to him. Here, the woman is entrusting the destiny of her daughter to the man who stands before her. Fr. Phil Bloom says the Canaanite woman demonstrates the difference between profound and superficial faith. The difference can be seen today in a Catholic's approach to marital fecundity. It is similar between someone who calls himself "Catholic" and the one who is living and breathing his faith.

Caring for People

Jesus was poised to rest, but His delight was to care for people God had sent to Him no matter what he was doing. Fr. Orlando Sapuay, M.S. notes Jesus' clear affirmation of the woman's faith and an announcement that her daughter suffering from severe demonic oppression would be fine.

Fr. Ron Rolheiser we might all take a lesson in catholicity and good pastoral theology from this incident in the gospel. Who knows what will happen to us when we open ourselves up to God and allow his Word to work within us? Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB tells us that we will meet strangers and outsiders who interrupt our lives, stop us in our tracks, and force us to ask deeper questions. And we may end up, like Jesus, praising the still greater faith in strangers and outsiders.

Marriage, Teens & Prayer

We go on to another one of the hottest social issues today - Marriage. Steven Crowder defies the norm and declares that marriage is really a beautiful thing. He says when it comes to marriage, we’ve all been lied to. Far from the miserable, broke, sexless life that it’s made out to be, the life of today’s married man is more fulfilling than any lonely, self-pleasing, single guy could hope for. While Jennifer Fulwiler responds to the environmental left's assertion that Catholicism is bad for the planet because it encourages people to have too many kids. As a religion, they say the Church's carbon footprint is too big. People are worth the resources they use, she asserts.

Fr.  Robert Barron laments the fact our wider society tells teen-agers that they can behave in any way they like and still be “good people,” but the consciences of these young people are telling a different story. Deep down, they know that selfish and irresponsible behavior is turning them into selfish and irresponsible people—and their souls are crying out.

Msgr. Charles Pope reminds us to pray for them, as well as all those other folks we presonally pray for. We may despair at times that our prayers are making any difference. But we shouldn’t give up. As a priest, he has received people who have been away from God for years - even decades - who are now requesting confession and a return to the Church. It's the same encouragement we get from New York's Archbishop Timothy Dolan. He says what the regular visit to the dietician does for our physical health, a regular visit to the sacrament of penance does for our spiritual well-being. The sacrament reminds us that the life of discipleship is a lifelong journey, with valleys and peaks.

Finally, here's a prayer that Bishop Chris Coyne "mined" on the Internet and then tweaked to make a bit more Catholic. For the many among us who are severely affected by the pressing economic times we collectively face as a nation, here is his "Prayer in Time of Economic Trouble."

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. A blessed and happy new week to all.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: Can non-Catholics go to heaven?
FEATURED BLOG: Modesty Helps Women Be Friends
PASTORAL HISPANA: Un corazon misionero edifica la Iglesia

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1 comment:

  1. Episteme12:58 PM

    "Far from the miserable, broke, sexless life that it’s made out to be, the life of today’s married man is more fulfilling than any lonely, self-pleasing, single guy could hope for."

    And every chaste single man within the church, working apostolates while the married man is off with his wife and kids, then going home alone at night to another evening of prayer and solitude, just winced at yet another bit of being scandalized.

    The dogs at the table of church, being thrown the mere scraps of bare pastoral support in a church that (rightfully) celebrates religious vocation and marriage as the spiritual and temporal future of our faith, are those adult faithful who are following the magisterium fully and quietly sitting in the pews or in Adoration biting their tongues while everyone assumes that they must be as bad as their secular kin just because (surprise) there isn't the plentiful pool for them to date -- and the pastoral climate for them to date toward marriage in -- within the modern parish (which we refuse to leave like all those whom you disparage yet pray for).

    Rather than constantly writing about how broken everyone who doesn't marry their Catholic School Sweetheart straight out of college is, the clergy and married folks alike need to break out of their blogging box and look at the thousands of pages of Singles asking about where our pastoral support and community infrastructure is: the first step to Marriage Formation is getting two people who might someday marry to be in the same place. As it is, the church seems to be counting on those former Catholics out in the world who are having a sexual holiday to want to get a church marriage and CCD for their kids coming back. Meanwhile, an entire celibate generation taught to live and marry IN the church has gotten a raw deal of being ignored for our entire adult lives.

    Either start realizing that there are Canaanite women around you looking for scraps or more or AT LEAST change how you write these things to face that we exist so that we all go to our graves alone with some dignity, still wondering where the young Catholics of the other sex are supposed to have been...

    (Seriously, where ARE all of those holy young women that every article tells me are lamenting that we men aren't supposed to be out there? Two popped into Adoration while I was doing a Holy Hour today, but popped back out over the course of a single rosary decade...)