At a time when we label people as sick or healthy, by color of skin, or religious affiliation, we can identify with the disciples who wanted nothing to do with the nagging Canaanite woman. They felt privileged to be in the group of followers and she was an outsider—she did not belong.
There’s a story about a Protestant lady who died and went to heaven. St. Peter was walking her by a certain section and told her to be very quiet.
The lady complied and then asked, “Why did we have to be so quiet?” St. Peter replied, “We just passed the section where the Catholics are, and they think that they are the only ones up here.” Some religions think that they have a monopoly on God—like they own God. Salvation comes from the Jews. Our Lord, the Blessed Mother, all of the Apostles were Jewish. Although we refer to them as the Chosen People, Jesus came to save humanity, not just a few. When Jesus said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” He did not mean to exclude anyone, but to draw attention to the persistence of the woman who would not go away. Sort of like when a parent tells their child, “Look at all you have in me as your parent, but do not appreciate. Look at that person who has nothing but has greater motivation than yours.” Jesus was rubbing the obvious in the faces of His disciples, who were more concerned about getting rid of the persistent woman than they were with paying attention to Jesus. The Canaanite woman was focused. She was determined not to give up. Imagine how different our prayers would be if we shared her persistence. We are a microwave generation. We like instant results, even on the spiritual level. If we don’t get what we want right away, we usually quit asking. Some saints prayed for years without giving up. At first Jesus refused her, but because of her persistence, granted her request.
The Bible is full of examples where people changed God’s mind. Remember that when we read the Bible, we are looking into a mirror. The stories reflect the development of human history and God’s direct involvement. God has always been, always is and always will be. We are the ones who change. Prayer is for us. We need to hear ourselves praise, worship, petition God. Through our prayer, our perception of who God is changes. Consider the Canaanite woman. She became stronger after an apparent rejection. If she had listened to the negative comments her daughter might have died. Many are insulted by negative comments and just shut down. She reacted with faith, kept her eyes on Jesus.
The objective of prayer is not to get what we want, but to know what God wants. Certainly, God wants good things for us. However, through the maze of our weaknesses, prejudices, fears—we need to discern what is for the Kingdom and what is for our self-centered interests. The Canaanite woman asked healing for her daughter. Intercessory prayer can be powerful. That’s why we ask each other for prayers. Folks near death, or who lost everything in a fire, who did not believe in God, have experienced a change when others prayed for them. We are social beings, all connected, all in need of each other—whether or not we want to be or not. We are called to be the communion of Saints. Sheltering at home, having to keep our distance, not touching—all goes against our true self. But we know that we are helping the cause of wellness when we follow the directives. The restrictions have helped us to appreciate what we had and what we hope to regain after the pandemic. Imagine the party at the Canaanite woman’s home after her little girl got well. We do not know if she came back to thank Jesus for the miracle. But we can be sure that she never forgot Him. Her life changed. She spoke to others about the day when Jesus complimented her faith. No doubt that she taught her daughter the value of daring to speak in the face of opposition.
Life can present some unexpected challenges. God wants only good things for us. We need to pray and never loose faith.