20th Sunday of the year

Have you ever been at your wit’s end looking for a miracle? Have you ever been so desperate, that you will try anything, novenas, extra rosaries, pilgrimages, fasts, penances, ‘extra stuff’, promised money to St Anthony to get a favour of a petition granted?

We all pray to the Our Lady and saints such as St Anthony or St Jude, even a deceased family member, and a holy person we knew, and so on. Because the Lord seems to be ‘taking His time’ answering a deeply felt need we feel the need to go to an intermediary. At exam time and this week I know without fail I will be asked to pray and or say Mass for someone anticipating their Leaving Cert. results and or their getting the place in third level that they will have enough points to get what they want.

Maybe it shows up the shallowness of our faith if the only time we are on our knees is when we are looking for something. Maybe the Lord is trying to strengthen our resolve and purify our motives in prayer by not granting us instant answers. What will our prayer be next week or in 6 months time?

On the other hand have we taken the time to acknowledge answered prayer? Do we take time to notice the quiet ways in which God has answered our most desperate prayers?

The story of the Gospel this Sunday is about faith tested and faith answered - involving a woman who doesn’t seem to have a chance to have her case heard– she is a woman in a male-dominated society and a pagan among Jews, what hope has she in being heard when even an Israelite Jewish woman wouldn’t dare approach a rabbi in public? A rabbi couldn’t even greet his mother in the street as it was frowned upon.

Yet it her all at once, desperate, persistent, persevering, patience pleading, her determination, directness, frankness, simplicity, selflessness, trust, and faith even in Jesus as the Son of David, and her appeal to his mercy and finally her human wit that wins Jesus over.

A mother will stop at nothing when the well-being of her child is at stake. Something changed in that woman, whether it was seconds, minutes or hours - in the woman’s disposition and faith. From calling Jesus simply ‘Sir’ and from a distance, she calls Him ‘Lord’, on her knees close to Him.

Maybe these are the qualities of prayer that we lack sometimes in prayer. We might give up too easily or lack pure motives. Do we have deep faith, do we appeal to Jesus’ mercy? Irrespective of her social standing and nationality Jesus looks at her heart. She is rewarded.

We also have to ask ourselves ‘why the delay?’ is God, as a loving Father, trying to teach me something as any parent teaches a child that we can’t have our way in everything and instantly, that, yes, He is attentive but we haven’t fully surrendered ourselves completely to His will for us? The woman shouts from a distance and when her prayer isn’t heard she annoys the disciples, and the finally she draws closer on her knees.

The unnamed woman is the first pagan to have her prayer answered – she will be the first of many – hence while Jesus alludes to the bread and feeding the people of Israel first, she responds with an image of breadcrumbs. She is seemingly jumping the gun, but she knows that ultimately those outside Israel can benefit from Jesus’ mission.

The Good News of salvation is for everyone, therefore, with the qualities of faith this unnamed woman displayed. How deep is our faith? And how readily can we - as Christians - say to God: Your will be done!?

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