Thursday of the 5th week in Ordinary Time
February 9, 2017
In You, Lord, I long to find the hope that sustains me. With You, I want to overcome every obstacle in the way to Your promises. Amen.
I've always enjoyed the story in today's Gospel passage because of the Greek woman's response to Jesus in the face of an impossibility. She's a sign of hope for all of us when we're up against a wall and there seems to be no door through it. Her persistence and her confidence in Jesus, who was known to be a barrier-breaker, are traits that we should copy.
At first, Jesus seemed to be saying "no" to the woman's prayer request. And for good reason (according to the culture of the day), for she was not Jewish, and everyone "knew" that non-Jews were second-rate. Not only that, but she was a woman! "Inferior" to Jesus in not just one but two ways!
However, Jesus had already begun to teach that the kingdom of God surpasses all human limitations. He was already treating women with equal dignity, raising them to the same level of importance as men. He had already preached about new wineskins. He had already broken Sabbath laws in order to minister to people, breaking from old traditions that were used without compassion. So why did he say no to this desperate mother?
Think about the barriers that you seem to be up against. When it seems like our prayers are hitting a hard wall, it's time to assess why. Is Jesus really saying no? Did he put up the wall? Sometimes he does, but only for our protection, because it would be harmful for us to proceed ahead with our plans.
At other times, Jesus wants to help us break through the barriers, but we just stand there staring at the thick bricks, feeling their roughness, and that's all we think about. We need to be like the Greek woman who found a clever way around her obstacle. We have to try a new direction, a different tactic, or a deeper reason for getting our prayers answered. Jesus wanted to test her persistence, for her sake. He does the same with us.
Today's first reading speaks of the permanence of the unitive bond of marriage. When we're up against a wall in marriage and it seems like our unity is being dissolved, it's God's intention to keep the marriage together. If he joined the husband and wife together, then the two have indeed become one. No wall, no division in that relationship is stronger than God. But the husband and wife must both choose to "cling" to each other, especially when it feels like healing is impossible. They cling to each other as they wait at the wall for Jesus to lead them into a breakthrough.
The kingdom of God surpasses all human limitations. No prayer bounces off a brick wall forever. Find a new angle and keep hitting that wall with more prayers. And when you get tired, take a rest in the Father's lap. You will reach the breakthrough you need. I guarantee it. I speak from experience.
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