Step #1: Lectio / Read
Click the link below or open your Bible to the passage and read through the reading at least once, paying attention to what is happening in the text.
Step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
Use the following meditation to help you reflect more deeply on the Scripture (you may want to read the passage again).
I read today’s gospel several times, because I could not reconcile what I was reading. A Canaanite woman approaches Jesus as he walks with his disciples and calls out for him to heal her demon-possessed daughter. Of course, my own expectation was that that Jesus would do so without a moment’s hesitation, but that is not what happens. At first, Jesus basically ignores her calls, and does not say anything. Shortly, the disciples apparently get irritated with her and ask Jesus to “send her away”. Jesus states that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel”. Still, the woman persists, begging for Jesus to help her. Finally, Jesus makes a comment about the error of giving the food of children to the dogs. The woman is undaunted and replies that even the dogs get the scraps that fall from the table. With that, Jesus commends her great faith and does indeed heal her daughter.
The words of Jesus are what I struggled with. At first, and maybe even second reading, these words do not sound anything like the merciful Jesus we all know. His actions and words sound insulting, and that just doesn’t make any sense, does it? You can’t help but wonder, what was Jesus doing?
It seems to me that perhaps Jesus was indirectly rebuking his disciples and using the woman’s faith as a real-life demonstration of his message. If you read Jesus’ words with a spirit of irony, you might see that perhaps Jesus was acting out the end result of the attitude of his disciples when they wanted to “send her away”. She was begging Jesus for help, but the disciples wanted to keep her from Jesus. Incidentally, Peter himself had just done the exact same thing in the immediately preceding chapter when he lost his focus on Jesus and began to sink into the water. After he became frightened and was unable to continue walking on the water towards Jesus, Peter cried out the same as the Canaanite woman, “Lord, Save me!”.
I picture Jesus maybe being frustrated with their harsh attitude and playing out the scene as if he also espoused the same unmerciful view of the woman. Perhaps Jesus was using sarcasm to make his point clear.
Since the woman was undeterred because of the great love she had for her daughter and because of the great faith she had that Jesus could and would help her, Jesus was able perhaps to show the disciples what he really desires of his followers. Sometimes, our own hard-heartedness may require similar, real examples of true faith and trust in order to be softened. Be bold and persistent in your pursuit of Jesus, and just as the Canaanite woman was rewarded, so too will you.
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
These questions are to be used to talk to God; have a conversation with the Lord about these questions and what is going on in your heart as you pray today.
What do I think the Lord truly desires of me?
What do I truly desire from the Lord?
Where has my heart grown hardened and needs to be softened?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
In this step, you listen. Stop talking, let God speak to your heart. You may repeat one of these short phrases to focus your mind on the Lord.
"Lord, help me!"
"You are merciful."
"Soften my heart."
Step #5: Actio / Act
In light of today's reading and your time spent in prayer with the Lord, what concrete action or actions will you take to let this encounter with the Lord bear fruit in you today?
Consider your own words and the way you speak to others, realizing the power your words have to show mercy and build up those around you.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Jim Lundgren, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Crystal Lake, IL.
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