The 18th Week in Ordinary Time
The holy man, Simeon, held the Child Jesus and proclaimed, “…a light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of your people, Israel!” (Luke 2: 32)
In today’s Gospel Jesus shows Himself as this Light but the passage is troubling. Jesus had worked miracles at the request of some pagans but here He seems so out of character, at least, at first. A woman, a pagan, comes beseeching; she is in anguish because her daughter is terribly tormented, and with hope, she approaches the one she addresses as “Lord”.
Jesus does not respond and the disciples are very annoyed with her “get rid of her!” Finally, Jesus dialogs with her, and His words sound harsh “it is not right to take the food of the children and throw it to the dogs!” – dogs it is how Jews saw the Gentiles, the pagans – the word rendered in Greek is “puppies” – it softens His words but puppies are still dogs.
The woman with amazing persistence calls Him “Lord, son of David” and Jesus does respond to her heartfelt desire. At that moment did Jesus see His Father reaching out to His other children? – in an instant, He heals the child, moved by the woman’s rejoinder, “Please, Lord, even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their master.” Jesus is moved to say, “O woman, great is your faith; let it be done as you wish.”
This pagan woman exemplifies faith for us. The Power of faith, the dynamic of faith is so strong that God wills to be moved by it. He wills to respond to it in some way according to HIs merciful wisdom. Wonder of wonders: God the omnipotent becomes the servant – our servant.
St. John Mary Vianney, whose feast we celebrate today said, “Our hearts are small but prayer stretches them.” Can we not say, “Our hearts are small but faith stretches them” – so that we grow in love of God and in so loving we see our Almighty God more and more as our Servant, the Servant of merciful providence through the very precious gift of faith.