Ask and You Shall Receive

  • August 20, 2017 (readings)
  • Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
  • Matthew 15:21-28

    Jesus left that place and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon." But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, "Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us." He answered, "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she came and knelt before him, saying, "Lord, help me." He answered, "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." She said, "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table." Then Jesus answered her, "Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish." And her daughter was healed instantly.

    Introductory Prayer: I believe in you, my God. You called me into existence from nothingness and carefully watch over me. You have even numbered the hairs of my head. I trust in your infinite goodness, and I abandon into your loving hands my fears, my hopes, my needs, my desires, everything. I love you, Lord, and I wish to love you with all my mind, heart, soul and strength.

    Petition: Lord, grant that these moments of conversation will build my trust in you.

    1. Bold Prayer: We are often timid and bashful in asking others for what we need when we assume that we will be “putting them out” with our request. We put ourselves in their place and think, “I don’t want to be a bother to them.” But Christ wants us to be bold in prayer! What does it “cost” God to grant us his grace? More than what he has already freely given us — his Son? To think that we are “bothering” God when we ask him for things is to pray to a distant and unfamiliar God. Did not Christ guarantee us that if we asked the Father (“Abba,” “Daddy”) for anything in his name, it would be granted? The Canaanite woman’s loud pleas were not bothering Christ in the least. How different Christ’s reactions are to ours, which are so often as those of his disciples!

    2. Prayer Unanswered? It 's hard to humble ourselves and admit that we need help, that we can’t completely take care of ourselves. Our pride and human respect often keep us from asking for what we need. The Canaanite woman didn’t seem to mind: she presented herself before Christ and others as a beggar. Now the Gospel text records, “But he did not answer her at all.” One might think Christ responded to her act of humility with a rather cold, even degrading reception. Was Christ insensitive? Of course not! He knew how strong this woman’s faith was, and he put it to the test precisely so that others throughout the centuries could marvel at her simple faith. There are often many hidden reasons why Christ doesn’t readily answer our prayers. Let us return to Christ humbly, with faith and hope, when we feel slighted or ignored by him.

    3. Efficacious Prayer: An effective prayer is a humble prayer. We are super-sensitive when we are hurt. This Canaanite woman was already very distressed by the condition of her daughter and the scolding of the disciples. Had she not had such simple faith and hope, Christ’s words to her could have been enough to send her “over the top.” When we are hurt, we easily jump to conclusions and become offended. Once our pride is injured, we are often blind to the good someone wishes us or performs for us. How many souls have spent long years away from Christ because they have clung to past hurts and been blinded to God’s often mysterious pedagogy?

    Conversation with Christ: Dear Jesus, too often I have given up on prayer without really trying, convinced that you don’t listen to me. I am sorry for judging you. Help me persevere in asking you for the good things I need. Help me overcome any shame or human respect, so that I can increase my faith, hope, and love for you.

    Resolution: I will meditate on an “unanswered” prayer in my life, trying to understand how Christ could have answered it in an unexpected, yet superior way.

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