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God’s Desires and Providential Design
Wednesday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
Leaving that place, Jesus withdrew to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Canaanite woman from that vicinity came to him, crying out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon-possessed and suffering terribly.” Jesus did not answer a word. So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The woman came and knelt before him. “Lord, help me!” she said. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” “Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, fix my heart on the desires of your heart.
- The School of the Desert: In today’s first reading, Jeremiah consoled the people of Israel while in their exile. They felt desolate, stripped, and aware of their nothingness and dependence on God. They came face to face with the truth of their situation. Jeremiah reminded them of God’s promise and spoke the Lord’s words to encourage them. They would be a people who would find favor or pardon in the desert (Jeremiah 31:2). “I have loved you with an everlasting love and so I still maintain my faithful love for you” (Jeremiah 31:3). Jeremiah also reminded them of their destiny, of God’s design for them. “You will be rebuilt” (Jeremiah 31:4). The people found themselves in a situation beyond their control, beyond their expectation. And yet, the Lord knew how the tides of history can work in favor of his ultimate desire. He guides his people through whatever historical circumstance lies in their path by his loving Divine Providence.
- Indifference or Preference?: In the Gospel we discover a Canaanite woman, one who was not of the tribe of Israel. Did God’s promise extend to her? At first it appeared that Jesus was indifferent to her plea, as heartfelt as it was: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” She replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.” Jesus was being obedient to the Father’s design as he found it in Scripture. Rather than indifference, there was a strong preference. Jesus was always inclined to words or actions that expressed his Father’s will. But even here, it served as a means to draw out the faith of this woman, a faith that would be rewarded by the healing she sought.
- The Induction through Faith: The woman was aware of Jesus’ play on the cultural mindset of the time. Israel looked upon the Canaanites as inferior. She answered within the cultural context of the time, “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.” With this gesture of humility, she professed herself as one who begged for the blessings that she knew only he was able to offer, and no one else. She professed her faith in Jesus. Her faith was rewarded double-fold: an expression of admiration and an act of healing. Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” Her daughter was healed at that moment. Faith brought her into the realm of Jesus’ power, so to speak. She was inducted into the family of God by a persistent faith. There was a newness in the Lord’s mission to this woman of pagan culture. It was a newness brought about by faith. The Lord, in his goodness, draws us out from the desert through faith in him. In his humility, he stoops into our present historical realities to answer the deep desires of our hearts.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, do not let me forget your promise of salvation. Grant that all the challenges, difficulties, and circumstances of my life will serve as a means to profess my faith in you and be the recipient of your redeeming grace.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will be vigilant to the opportunities, internal and external, to invite you into my reality through an act of faith in you.
For Further Reflection: Discernment of Spirits, Rule 1.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala and “Nine Days with Mary Magdalene.”